5-stage program aims to cut energy costs in many campus buildings

By Kerry Colligan

An outside contractor checks air flow with a special metering device. File photo courtesy Plant Operations

Last June, the University volunteered to participate in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star Buildings Program. The five-stage program to reduce overall energy use includes lighting upgrades and improvements to air handling and heating and cooling systems.

"Our interest, in part, is that the EPA did a very good job of pulling the pieces of energy conservation together. The program covers many things we've been doing for years," says Richard Robben, director of maintenance services and utilities.

"When the program is completed, [General Fund] building occupants will see better lighting levels and more uniform temperature controls. The program allows us to reassess preventive maintenance methods."

The utilities department expects to upgrade almost two million square feet each year for the next five years as part of the program. However, most of the work to be done will not disrupt daily operations for building tenants, Robben says. Energy Star primarily focuses on building systems upgrades, not space renovations.

Energy Star consists of:


Green Lights, designed to retrofit or replace older lighting fixtures with more up-to-date, energy-efficient ones.


A building tune-up to review the current systems and either re-calibrate them or determine areas for improvement or upgrade.


Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) load reductions.


Improved fans and air-handling systems.


Improved heating and cooling plants.

At present, General Fund buildings use approximately $40 million per year in energy. Though savings vary in each building, implementation of the Energy Star program could save the University $6 million annually, according to Robben.

Green Lights is the most visible part of Energy Star, he says, adding that it represents the lion's share of the savings in energy and in dollars. Yoshiko Hill, design engineer and member of the Energy Star Green Lights implementation team, said lighting energy conservation efforts are at least eight years old at the U-M. "A lot of the easy-fix things disappeared years ago," Hill says. "We're now dealing with new technologies, replacing out-dated equipment." The result of Green Lights is 20 to 30 percent more efficient lamps that will provide an annual savings of approximately $2.1 million, according to Hill.

The new lamps, called T-8 lamps, render colors better, provide better color contrast, and are much closer to daylight than the T-12 lamps in use in most of the General Fund buildings. Chances are, you've seen the results T-8 lamps provide. Projects have been completed in the Kresge Business Library and the Hatcher Library reading room. At Kresge, not only were the lights replaced, the entire lighting scheme was redesigned to make better use of the fixtures and lighting levels were increased on the stacks to allow better visibility of book titles.

This type of redesign is representative of Energy Star. "We're meeting with building occupants to determine the most effective approach in each building," Robben says.

According to William Verge, manager for utilities systems, "Energy Star provides us the opportunity to document our energy reduction efforts for General Fund buildings. It represents the culmination of our current energy reduction programs."

The program will be conducted in all General Fund buildings over the next six years. Units interested in additional information should contact William Verge at 764-2492. The program is available at no charge to individual units.