While the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus has added 23.3 percent more square footage since 2003 — with new but more energy-intensive buildings to support world-class research — Energy Management has maintained an 8 percent annual energy-consumption savings for six years.   

Along with the cost avoidance of $3.5 million, Energy Management’s work contributes to the campus sustainability goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.  The energy savings equates to removing 14,880 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

“We are using energy and thereby contributing to the release of greenhouse gases into the environment with every action we take. It is important to keep this in mind as we, as a school, tackle important issues of climate change. Our Energy Management team is helping to lead the way in reducing our environmental footprint,” says Rich Robben, executive director of Plant Operations.

Energy Management, formerly known as Planet Blue Operations Team, is a unit within Plant Operations. Regional energy managers monitor building energy use, track heating, cooling and air conditioning systems, and implement energy conservation measures in academic buildings.

Lab facilities have long been a focus of Energy Management.  Laboratories need continuous ventilation for safety and thus consume more energy per square foot than office buildings.

When there are changes in research funding or researchers, lab space and fume hoods remain functional but empty for months. To combat wasted energy during these transitional times, the Energy Management team developed the lab hibernation program.

The program safely and quickly puts unused lab space and fume hoods into a hibernation state, which lowers the air exchanges in the lab to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The program has included 58 fume hoods with savings to date of more than $15,000. The program is coordinated with Occupational Safety and Environmental Health, Plant Operations staff and building facility managers.

“Only using the labs when they are needed allows us to avoid a significant amount of wasted energy in our highest energy use buildings,” says Dave Wentworth, regional energy manager.

Several other energy conservation efforts are underway as well. The team conducts steam trap testing on a regular schedule to find defective traps and repair them before they cause major problems for building occupants. 

A survey was conducted this summer of the compressed air lines in buildings to find leaks.  Correcting defects in the university’s steam and compressed-air systems eliminates energy waste and adds to the overall cost savings.

President Mark Schlissel recently unveiled his sustainability initiatives for the Ann Arbor campus. In the greenhouse gas-reduction category, the president recognized the need for energy management across the campus. Therefore, Energy Management’s work will expand beyond academic buildings in the coming years.