The Facilities Energy Management (FEM) team within the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management coordinates with facilities stakeholders across campus to reduce energy use in existing buildings and incorporate energy efficiency best practices into all new buildings.

Energy efficiency programs have been prominent on campus since the 1980s. Metering campus buildings has paid dividends throughout the last decade in helping to develop more advanced programs to improve energy efficiency. Stanford’s Energy and Climate Plan includes continued efficiency improvements for existing buildings, and FEM follows the plan as a guiding blueprint to implement new measures.

FEM manages multiple programs that offer technical and financial assistance to facility managers, department leads, and building occupants to encourage implementation of energy efficiency projects. The group works closely with the operations and management teams from departments across campus to ensure buildings are operated efficiently and high-performance opportunities are being realized and maintained as designed.


As of 2015, Stanford has reduced energy intensity on campus 25% from a 2000 baseline, despite continued campus growth. While a significant portion of this reduction is due to implementation of the Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) project, demand-side management accounts for nearly 10% of the savings. The cumulative savings total over $12 million since the baseline year.

engineer working on a speed pump

Engineer measuring the power draw of a constant speed pump (later upgraded with a variable speed drive)

  • The Whole Building Energy Retrofit Program (WBERP) seeks to reduce energy consumption in Stanford’s most energy-intensive buildings. This $30 million capital program began in 2004 to address the 12 campus buildings consuming the most energy and now includes the top 27, which represent 60% of total campus energy use. In 2015-16, construction began at the Mechanical Engineering Research Lab and the Varian building, projects that are expected to save over $400,000 per year. Design was completed for a retrofit at the McCullough Building, and an energy study was completed for Lorry Lokey (Chem/Bio). At the Lucas Center / Medical School Lab Surge (MSLS), the School of Medicine is pursuing energy efficiency opportunities identified through WBERP studies. Implementation will be phased, with funding support from the Energy Retrofit Program (ERP).
  • Since 1993, ERP has provided rebates to Stanford utility users that install efficiency upgrades in their facilities. Rebates cover some or all of the upgrade costs, depending on the project payback period. Thirty ERP projects were completed in 2015-16, for estimated savings of over $700,000 per year. Projects ranged in scope from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades and server virtualization to high-efficiency freezers and new vacuum pumps. With ERP support, the School of Medicine will save over $270,000 annually by rebalancing and rightsizing the ventilation rates at MSLS and another $40,000 by converting a constant air volume system to a variable air volume system in the glasswash area of MSLS.
  • LED lighting technology has advanced to the point where it can compete with fluorescent in many applications. Through ERP, widespread conversion to LED technology for indoor lighting, starting with successful upgrades at 11 buildings, including Lokey Lab, Gilbert Biological Sciences, and McClatchy Hall, is now a viable option. ERP has also provided crucial financial and technical support for converting most of the university’s street and pathway lighting to LED. The new lamps, installed in the summer of 2016, will provide a consistent appearance, improve color rendering, and preserve the residential character of the campus, while using only half as much electricity as before.
  • Operations staff continue to monitor building performance, looking for opportunities to improve operating schedules, HVAC set points, and maintenance, to name a few. In 2015-16 the team completed 20 HVAC recommissioning projects. In addition, new tools were developed in the Utility Metering, Billing, Reporting, and Sustainability database for more precise forecasting of building-level energy consumption. This enables more accurate verification of monthly energy consumption and forecasting down to the hourly level.

Overall energy intensity (measured in thousand British thermal units per usable square foot, kBtu/USF) remains less than it was in 2000. The suite of energy-saving programs targeting large-scale building retrofits, small-scale retrofits, and HVAC controls, coupled with new construction standards, has contributed to this trend. Other notable performance trends include the following:

  • Heating energy (utility hot water and steam) consumption per usable square foot decreased in both 2014 and 2015 as a result of SESI. In 2014, the use of regional heat exchangers to convert steam to hot water created efficiencies in the existing steam system. In 2015, a warm winter further reduced steam use, and the transition to the new Central Energy Facility (CEF) in April led to decreased distribution losses from the new hot water system compared to the older steam system, significantly reducing the amount of thermal energy required for building heating.
  • Chilled water consumption per usable square foot also decreased in 2015. While chilled water use is largely dependent on weather variations, the general downward trend in chilled water intensity also reflects the success of energy-efficient building retrofits and high-performing new construction projects in recent years.

Academic Integration

The FEM team engages frequently with research faculty to better understand energy demand inherent to their work and tailors program offerings accordingly. FEM provides input on the types of HVAC and energy management sensors deployed in buildings; the quality and resolution of the resultant data; how the data are currently managed and utilized; and future opportunities for improvement in sensor performance, data storage, and smart applications for processing the data. FEM staff also regularly interact with faculty in the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE). FEM team members serve as guest speakers for CIFE courses, help review student projects, and provide feedback on research needs regarding the operation of high-performance buildings.

Stanford’s Energy Conservation Incentive Program, established in 2004, provides schools and administrative units a financial incentive to use less electricity. The program sets budgets based on past consumption and lets participants “cash in” unused kilowatt-hours; those that exceed their electricity budgets pay the difference out of their own funds. FEM completed a large analysis in 2013 to recalibrate the budgets of the schools and units to more closely match them with expected performance. The analysis highlighted that on average, most units are coming in well under budget.

Looking Ahead

Benefits from the SESI project continue to optimize the energy efficiency of the campus. The new CEF and campus buildings work together with unprecedented synergies that enable macro-level tuning. Actively managing building-level energy demand maximizes the efficiency of the CEF and concurrently optimizes the energy supply to campus. A number of projects on the demand side will continue to contribute to this interplay to achieve significant results.

A key focus in the coming years will be the Integrated Controls and Analytics Program (iCAP), a new initiative focused on maximizing the efficiency of building operations through central controls systems. The university will explore controls integration and upgrade projects that will save both maintenance and energy dollars for Stanford, and as iCAP continues to develop, building control upgrades will be a primary focus for energy efficiency savings. FEM will be working closely with operations and maintenance partners to extract additional benefits from control systems data by researching and vetting new software analytics tools like fault detection and diagnostics, predictive maintenance, and performance optimization.

With iCAP projects just beginning, ERP and WBERP offer proven results for reductions in demand, and multiple projects are in the pipeline for next year. Two projects in Athletics facilities; energy improvements to Fairchild, MSLS, and the GALE buildings for the School of Medicine; server relocation projects; Residential & Dining Enterprises radiator controls; and ultra-low-temperature freezer replacements will all be initiated through ERP. Energy-efficient lighting upgrades in academic buildings will continue to be a priority through a partnership with the Buildings and Grounds Maintenance reballasting program and ERP. Additionally, construction will begin at the Green Earth Sciences Building for an HVAC upgrade through WBERP.

In the coming year the FEM team will continue to work collaboratively with Environmental Health & Safety, building occupants, and operations staff to further improve airflow management in large laboratory buildings. These facilities are typically the largest energy consumers on campus due to the amount of ventilation required for occupant safety. Studies conducted in 2014 identified innovative strategies to reduce HVAC-related energy needs in lab buildings, and WBERP projects are already including some of those measures. Others will require further analysis and/or demonstration before widespread implementation. One demonstration project currently under way uses a combination of schedules and sensors to reduce the frequency of air changes in a laboratory when it is unoccupied.