FIU No. 1 in SUS in energy conservation

Key initiatives have resulted in millions of dollars in savings in just three years.

A recently released report ranked FIU No. 1 among the 11 State University System (SUS) institutions in energy conservation during the three-year fiscal period 2007-2009. This concentrated effort to reduce FIU’s energy usage has resulted in millions of dollars in savings in annual utility expenses, even as the university continues an aggressive construction program.

The 2010 State University System Energy Conservation Report, published in December 2010, reported that FIU topped all state universities in energy conservation for three consecutive years with a score of 61.9590 kBTU per square foot. (The Environmental Protection Agency established kBTU per square foot as the key performance indicator for energy efficiency in its Energy Star rating program.)

“We knew that we would do well, that we’d be in the top three,” said John Cal, associate vice president of Facilities Management, “but we are elated with the results ranking us first in the state. The greenest, cleanest and most renewable energy is the energy we never have to use. These results highlight FIU’s achievements in sustainability and operational excellence.”

FIU decreased its annual utilities costs by 10 percent from 2007-2009, to $10.4 million in 2009-2010. The university did that even as it increased its gross square footage by nearly 200,000 square feet, or 3 percent, during that same period. FIU also achieved the lowest cost per square foot of any university with a remarkable $1.60 per square foot for the three-year period.

FIU’s energy performance level is the highest in the SUS. To put it in perspective, if FIU had performed at the level of the University of Central Florida – which ranked No. 2 in the study – FIU would have paid almost $3 million more in utilities during the three-year period analyzed in the study. Had it performed at the state average, FIU would have paid a whopping $21 million more.

Nick DiCiacco, senior director for Facilities Management for all FIU campuses, said that the primary reasons for the university’s energy efficiency are the central utilities plants located at Modesto A. Maidique and Biscayne Bay Campuses.

“Our sophisticated chilled water loop feeds nearly every building on campus,” said DiCiacco. “That allows us to manage the A/C systems more efficiently and reduce waste.”

Another initiative that contributed to the savings was the move to raise the air conditioning set point in buildings from 72 to 75 degrees. Additionally, motion detectors were installed throughout most areas of the campuses and more efficient lighting systems were introduced.

Thanks to these and other changes, the university was one of only five to meet the 2010 legislative mandate for a 10 percent reduction in consumption or cost.

DiCiacco says a key initiative currently underway among several is the automation of the chilled water plant with a computer-backed system that will measure and manage the necessary load to feed the campuses. Plans are also underway to install chilled water meters to better analyze performance in each building, with Facilities Management continuing to monitor temperatures. The plan, says DiCiacco, is to move toward a real-time model to maximize effectiveness and further reduce consumption.

— Martin Haro