Colorado State University Study Explores New Ways to Go Green through State-Funded Building Assessment

A Colorado State University study funded by the Governor’s Energy Office shows existing buildings on the CSU campus can be made more sustainable and eco-friendly with the right resources.

The Department of Facilities Management and the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University received a joint $47,525 grant to assess why universities in Colorado are not pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance certification.

Researchers assessed five buildings on the CSU campus including the Clark A-Wing, Aspen Hall, Yates Hall, The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT), and the Natural and Environmental Sciences Building (NESB). These buildings were used as case studies to understand the scope of pursuing LEED for Existing Buildings on the CSU campus.

The results show that the operations and maintenance staff are dedicated to sustainability and improving building efficiency. As a result, current CSU practices align with many of the LEED for Existing Buildings requirements.

“What is striking about this finding is that the hardest part – cultivating a mentality around sustainability – is already present,” said April Wackerman, project manager for the Institute for the Built Environment. “The challenge for CSU, and most universities, is to implement these policies and practices one building at a time.”

The final report identifies the gaps and the opportunities of each of the buildings assessed. The largest issue identified in the report is meeting energy-performance requirements.

“It is clear that some CSU buildings would be good candidates for LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M and others are not good candidates, at this time,” Wackerman said. “We have to show that the individual buildings perform at a minimum level compared to the national average source data provided by ENERGY STAR for typical buildings of similar type. Some of the CSU buildings in the study are below the minimum; however, a few are at or above the ENERGY STAR benchmark.”

The report also shows that there is a logistical gap, she said: “University buildings often house multiple departments. Their policies and protocol are implemented at a department level and not as a whole, which poses a logistical challenge with communication.”

Inspiring departments to work together and identify champions will be critical, she said.

CSU will continue to incorporate sustainable operational policies and practices, and will use the findings of the study to determine the best buildings for LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M certification on campus.

“There is a great opportunity to engage students in this process, which has a two-fold effect,” said Wackerman. “The students can learn by performing and developing relevant professional skills, and the university saves time and money by utilizing students for otherwise costly needs.”

The team at CSU, which includes the Facilities Management department and Housing and Dining Services, is finalizing the report and will submit it to the Governor’s Energy Office on Feb. 15.

Student interns from the Institute for the Built Environment conducted interviews, analyzed data, and helped write the final report. The IBE hires student interns each year to work on real-world projects and engage in hands-on learning.

The Institute for the Built Environment, founded in 1994 at Colorado State University, is a multidisciplinary institute that fosters stewardship and sustainability of natural and built environments through research-based, interdisciplinary educational forums. IBE provides professional education, research, and applied project learning focused on integrated design process, green building strategies, and sustainable built environments.

Facilities Management is the department charged with managing the physical aspects and daily operations of Colorado State University to reach its overarching mission: to set the standard for public research universities in teaching, research, service and extension for the benefit of the residents of Colorado, the United States, and the world. The department is committed to projects that conserve resources to create a more sustainable campus and community.