Episode 20: Streamlining Sustainability Reporting with AASHE STARS

Julian Dautremont

Julian Dautremont

Guest: Julian Dautremont
Director of Programs, AASHE

Host: Dave Karlsgodt
Principal, Fovea, LLC

Production Assistant: Sarah Barr

From energy use to purchasing decisions, waste management to community engagement, it’s no secret that sustainability is a notoriously broad and difficult to measure concept.

Creating a comprehensive sustainability rating system was exactly the challenge guest Julian Dautremont and colleagues from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) were tackling when the STARS program was born. STARS is short for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System and is the most widely used sustainability reporting system among colleges and universities in the United States. (It’s also the primary metric used to determine the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” ranking each year, in case you were wondering).

If STARS still stumps you or if you’re simply curious about how a broad concept like sustainability can possibly be quantified and compared, join us this episode as Julian guides us through STARS’ creation, current function and challenges, and goals for the future.

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Episode Transcript:

The following is an automated transcription of this episode which will include errors and omissions. You can listen and follow along with the text here:

https://otter.ai/s/fQev9a1bQ9-erFbEGbWWog

Dave Karlsgodt 0:00

Welcome to the campus energy and sustainability podcast. In each episode, we'll talk with leading campus professionals, thought leaders, engineers and innovators addressing the unique challenges and opportunities facing higher ed. and corporate campuses. Our discussions will range from energy conservation and efficiency to planning and finance, from building science to social science, from energy systems to food systems. We hope you're ready to learn, share, and ultimately accelerate your institution towards solutions. I'm your host, Dave Karlsgodt, I'm a principal at Fovea, an energy carbon and business planning firm. In this episode, I talked with Julian Dautremont, the director of programs AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. You'll hear us discuss the history of AASHE and how it has evolved from a small regional network into an international organization. We'll talk briefly about their annual conference and other member benefits. We then transition to a Q&A about STARS, AASHE's sustainability tracking reporting system for colleges and universities. We talked through the origins of STARS, and how it has emerged as a de facto standard for measuring sustainability progress on campuses. We also talked through some of the challenges the STARS team faces, including how to ensure a fair and reasonable scoring system, helping campuses navigate the extensive data collection process, and how the team rolls out new versions of the tool. We end with a sneak peek at what STARS 3.0 might look like as the tool continues to evolve. I hope you enjoy this June 2019 interview with Julian Dautremont. Well Julian, it's great to have you on the podcast today.

Julian Dautremont 1:39

Thanks. I'm glad to be here.

Dave Karlsgodt 1:40

Well, today we're going to talk a little bit about your organization, AASHE. We'll get into the general overview of the organization and who are the members and things like that, and then we can spend a little bit more specific time talking about the reporting that you guys manage through the STARS program. Before we get into any of that, can you just give us a little bit of background on who you are and and then maybe a little bit of high level overview of AASHE the organization itself?

Julian Dautremont 2:03

My name is Julian Dautremont and I'm the Director of Programs for AASHE which is the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. And we're a membership-based association of colleges and universities that are working toward a more sustainable future. And so we do the same kind of things that associations typically do, which is really all around helping members learn from one another. So we have an annual conference where members come together to share lessons and experiences firsthand and in person. We have a whole series of online resources and publications; we do a weekly newsletter with the latest news from around the world on what higher ed. is doing around sustainability. We do regular webinars; we do in person workshops. And again, all of it is centered around trying to create opportunities so that campuses can learn from other institutions all around the world.

Dave Karlsgodt 2:55

Can you talk a little bit about how AASHE is different than the many other organizations that play in the broad space of sustainability? I know there are a myriad of other organizations that touch higher ed. in some way. Where do you fit into that ecosystem?

Julian Dautrmont 3:10

Yeah, so there are a ton of really great organizations working in this space, what makes AASHE different is in particular kind of big tent approach, right? So we are not just focused on investment or climate, or any other particular dimension of sustainability--we try to be talking about sustainability across the institution. People often start with us. And then they may also join an organization with a more specialized focus on a particular area that's going to give a little bit more depth in that area.

Dave Karlsgodt 3:39

How did this organization get started? And how old is it, it's, you know, I've been involved with the conference at least for a couple of years now and it seems to have morphed even in the three or four years that I've been involved with AASHE. But give me a little bit of a longer history of where the organization started and how it maybe morphed a little bit over time.

Julian Dautremont 3:55

So AASHE was founded as AASHE in 2006. But we have a bit longer history than that. We actually started as a program of another organization that many of your listeners probably know: Second Nature, which administers the climate leadership commitments. They were founded in the 90s and, at the time, had a broad sustainability focus and had received some grant funding to create a west coast network focused on education for sustainability. So I was at the founding meeting for that, which was in 2002. And out of that meeting, came a loose network of mostly faculty actually, that were interested in these issues. And we called ourselves Education for Sustainability Western Network, and it was just the western U.S. and Canada. And we existed as EFS west for basically four years, when we became independent and adopted the name AASHE in 2006. We were growing capacity and we realized that there was really a need nationally or even beyond that, internationally, for a professional association for the sustainability staff, which was sort of a new and emerging profession at the time, there were not a ton of them, but they were enough that they needed a place to gather. And there wasn't really anyone else filling that role. So we changed our name to be more not regional. So it was no longer the Western Network, it was just the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Ed., and that became official in 2006 and we've been operating under that name since.

Dave Karlsgodt 5:22

If you had to put percentages on your focus in terms of how much is focused on staff versus education versus students versus you know, any other aspect of what you're doing...Is there a way you could break that down for us? Or is that difficult to say?

Julian Dautremont 5:36

It's difficult to say because most of what we do could serve any one of those audiences. So in terms of like, who it could serve, I think it's anybody who's trying to work towards change in higher ed. In terms of who it does serve, which we can quantify, like, who comes to our conference, at least we know, probably about half the people at the conference are sustainability staff. 10 to 15% are faculty. Maybe 25% is students and then the balance is businesses and other professionals in higher ed. who are not sustainability staff or faculty, but maybe they work in student affairs or facilities. But yeah, our core that is the sustainability staff, and then students and faculty are kind of the next big group.

Dave Karlsgodt 6:18

Well, let's talk a little bit about the conference. And I know that you do some retreats, and some other, you know, beyond just the main annual conference, but tell us a little bit about why one would go to that and what you hope to accomplish with that every year.

Julian Dautremont 6:29

Sure, so the conference is annual and this year it's in Spokane, Washington at the end of October and we would love to have folks join us. And the real purpose of the conference is to provide an opportunity for members to share the latest and greatest from their campuses with their peers, and to make connections because often this work can be kind of isolating. Many campuses only have one or maybe two sustainability staff or even somebody who's also doing another job and then takes on sustainability as kind of an additional project. So you come to AASHE to meet your community, your peers, the other folks who are doing this work and to get rejuvenated, to remind yourself why you're doing it, to get new ideas, to get techniques that you can bring to your campus. We try to really emphasize that learning opportunity. So there's going to be tons and tons of educational sessions, got great keynotes as well, poster sessions. We have an expo hall. So it's an opportunity to learn about new products and services that might help you achieve your sustainability goals. So yeah, I mean, the core things education and networking, I think are the main drivers for attendance at the conference.

Dave Karlsgodt 7:34

So it's one of my highlights of the year; I've been I think the four of them now? And planning to go to Spokane; I'm excited that it's only a couple hours away from my home here in Seattle this year, instead of having to go across the country. Let's talk a little bit about some of the retreats or some of the other regional work that you do too, because I know it's not just the annual conference, right?

Julian Dautremont 7:51

Yeah, we do three or four workshops, typically in any given year in person workshops. One is on curriculum. So it's mostly for faculty and how to integrate faculty across the curriculum and build a curricular sustainability program at your campus. There's another, it's called the sustainable professionals retreat, as the name suggests, for sustainability professionals to kind of get together and get trained and change management, get new ideas. Again, it serves a similar function to the conference, but it's more, there's a curriculum to it. Whereas the conference, you come in, in a sense, create your own curriculum. Our workshops have a defined curriculum that each participant is going to come away with. So in addition to the retreat, and the curriculum workshop, we do one on diversity, inclusion and equity and how that relates to sustainability. It's an emerging issue for many campuses and sustainability officers need to understand how that fits in with the work that they're doing and how they can be champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion. And then the final one that we've just started doing is on a change management approach called refocus. It's really about trying to figure out how to strengthen the position of the sustainability office within the organization and how to grow support. And so, I think we see within our membership, if you get a sustainability position, there's tons of projects to do. And it's really easy to get caught up in just doing projects, but never really building capacity per se and strengthening the program and gaining influence within the organization. The refocus approach just really tries to encourage practitioners as they're doing the projects, to keep in mind these larger goals, so that eventually you can get to that point where other people at the organization are doing the work for you and you're not doing each project yourself because the job is too big for any one person to accomplish by themselves. They need to be creating a broader culture of sustainability that spreads across the institution. That's really what that workshops about.

Dave Karlsgodt 9:42

Well, thank you for all that background. I think that helps. But I think what we really came here to talk about was the STARS program. And I know the AASHE stars program is considered sort of the gold standard of sustainability tracking for higher education right now. Let's dive into that a little bit. You know, I have a background in software development and have an appreciation for how much blood sweat and tears have probably gone into building the system you guys have today. But can you just start us off with a little bit of background on what STARS is, who's it for, any of the history just for context? And then I've got some more pointed questions for you there.

Julian Dautremont 10:14

Sure, so STARS is an assessment tool that hundreds of campuses use to measure and report on their sustainability performance. It stands for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System. It started in 2006. Well, conversations about it started in 2006. It didn't become a live product until 2009, or technically 10, I guess, is when it officially became official, but really launched in the fall of 2009 is when we first had people sign up to start using STARS. Anyway, that structure of it, it really aims to provide a comprehensive sustainability assessment. So it looks at everything from academics, to operations, to engagement, to the administration and planning. And so institutions collected summit a ton of data about their sustainability performance. It all translates to a score, which then, in turn, translates to a rating. So you can be a STARS gold campus, or STARS Platinum or STARS silver. And as I said, we've got several hundred campuses using it and all their data is public online, so anybody can come and see why an institution was rated the way they were and what data they submitted. So transparency is a key principle for STARS and the methodology is all public as well. And that was important from the beginning because when we started developing STARS, there were a couple other efforts out there that were trying to to assess higher ed. on its sustainability performance, but, in general, they were characterized by significantly less transparency, so people didn't understand why they were ranked the way they were. And that led to some distrust in those systems that we've really tried to build into our system that anybody can see exactly how the score is generated, exactly what the institutions submitted.

Dave Karlsgodt 12:03

That makes a lot of sense, black boxing the information doesn't tend to build confidence does it? So one of the things that I hear a lot, just kind of being in and around campuses, is two things: first of all, it's beloved and everybody wants to get the highest rating possible and there's a lot of support for it, but there's a lot of gnashing of teeth around STARS as well. Namely, just the amount of time it takes for somebody to fill it out and go through that. Can you just speak to that point blank? I mean, this, it's a lot of work, right, to put this together? This is not a light, you know, something you can knock out in an afternoon?

Julian Dautremont 12:36

No, it definitely would take you longer than an afternoon, even if you had most of the data already collected, which most campuses don't. It is a lot of work. And some of that I think is unavoidable. Right, we set out to make a comprehensive and meaningful sustainability assessment and sustainability is a big, complicated topic. And so to do it justice does require some amount of work. And that has been important to ourselves stakeholders that it be meaningful, right? I think even worse than spending a lot of time collecting data would be spending time collecting data and have it mean nothing. So we've tried to really make sure that what is being collected is meaningful, and is helpful, in fact, for sustainability professionals trying to do the job of making their institutions more sustainable. At the same time, we do recognize that that is a major barrier for use of the tool. Many institutions don't have the resources to invest that much in data collection. So it's something we, in every revision, we really investigate any opportunities we can see to simplify the system without losing that methodological rigor. But yeah, the reason it's so much work is because sustainability is a large, expansive topic. And to do a meaningful assessment, we felt like, does in fact require quite a bit of work.

Dave Karlsgodt 13:52

Well, just for those like my friend Greg, who's not in higher ed. at all, who listens to the podcast, just so he understands, like, what kind of questions are you even asking? Is it just about carbon mitigation? Or is it about education? Or what are some of the topics you cover in STARS?

Julian Dautremont 14:06

It runs the gamut. So we've got the curriculum, so what's being taught in the classroom. We've got the research output, what kind of research faculty at the institution are engaged in. All kinds of aspects of operations, so energy, greenhouse gas emissions, building, transportation (both the fleet and how people get to and from campus), purchasing (all the stuff that they buy), grounds, how are the grounds maintained? Waste, of course, water use and stormwater management. Then we also look at campus engagement. So to what extent is there a culture of sustainability? How well are students and employees engaged as part of the program? We look at public engagement. So what is the relationship of the institution with its community? What kind of community engagement programs does it have? Is it working with other institutions around sustainability? Does it have any partnerships in the community to advance sustainability? And we also try to look at the social dimensions of sustainability. So that means the diversity is in there, affordability is in there, socially responsible investing. And there's probably areas of sustainability that we're not broad enough on; we're always getting suggestions that we need to look at a new issue that we haven't yet captured very well. So there is pressure in both directions both to simplify, but also to be more comprehensive, which is a real struggle for us. But it's quite comprehensive already.

Dave Karlsgodt 15:21

So some of those things sound pretty straightforward, especially on the operational side, like how are you getting your energy, for example, those are limited down to a couple of numbers here and there. But when you get into things like culture of sustainability, how do you score things like that, which are inherently subjective?

Julian Dautremont 15:36

That is something we struggle with, actually. So we look at the existence of peer to peer educational programs for students and for employees. And we try to put some metrics around the extent or the size of those programs. You know, like, what percent of the student body do they target, because many campuses will have, like, what they call an eco reps program, where they have people in every residence hall, who are the sustainability educator, and they educate their peers in that residence hall around, you know, how to recycle and how to save energy in their dorm rooms and that kind of thing. But if only 10% of your campus lives on campus, then that shouldn't get counted as much as an institution where they have a program like that, that reaches, let's say, 60% of their campus population. So we try to do some things like that, that make it somewhat quantifiable. But you're right, that it's it's incredibly imperfect. And it's something that is frustrating to us that we haven't been able to come up with a broadly agreeable way of sort of saying this is a strong engagement program. And this is a less strong engagement program. It's not as simple as I would like.

Dave Karlsgodt 16:39

No, it makes sense. But you can at least ask the questions and by asking the questions, then people have to think oh, no, we don't have that type of program, so maybe we should start it or we should think about how to expand it to more students. Or just by asking the question, I suppose you're promoting the idea that's behind it?

Julian Dautremont 16:52

Yeah. And it does give us a sense of who's doing what, which is one of the goals of this tool is to help see who's really a leader in this kind of program, who can I look to for models. So it does provide it, we have this database now, who is doing all these different strategies to try to engage the population. And I think there is a reasonable assumption that if you're doing a lot of these programs, you probably are doing a better job of reaching your campus population than if you just have very few. And again, we don't require you have all of the programs to get all the points, it's usually like a list of of options. And if you do some portion of them, you get all the points for that area. We really try to design it consciously to recognize the limitations of the data that we can get, but still provide some way of at least a common vocabulary to talk about it and to recognize programs that we know campuses are doing to try to impact student engagement on sustainability. So they, whatever they're doing, they should find a way to capture it in STARS in some way and get some credit for it.

Dave Karlsgodt 17:54

Yeah, let's talk about how do you use this information? I think you've alluded to a few things one, sounds like, knowing who's doing what. So I could theoretically contact AASHE and say: Hey, who's incorporated sustainability education into their curriculum, for example, and you guys could give me a list of schools that are doing that?

Julian Dautremont 18:11

Yeah, you probably want to ask a more precise question, because everybody is doing some sustainability in the curriculum. But yeah, actually, you don't even need to come to us, right, we've created a system so, as I said, before, all the reports are online for anybody to view. So you could go report by report and just look at campus reports for ideas. But if you want to take a more holistic look and say, okay, I want to do, let's say, some benchmarking on greenhouse gas emissions per student, or something like that, we have a benchmarking tool. So you can log in, pick the schools that you want to see, and then the data, so it's a carbon emissions per student, and it'll spit out a chart showing all the campuses you selected and what they reported as their carbon emissions per student, both in a visual format, and also a table with the data in a tabular format that you can export to Excel if you want to look at it in a different way. But we're trying to create tools so that users can answer their own questions and do their own research, and then use that information as a tool to help them more effectively advocate for increased investment in sustainability on their campus.

Dave Karlsgodt 19:13

Otherwise, you guys would just be fielding questions like that all day long, I suppose?

Julian Dautremont 19:16

Yeah.

Dave Karlsgodt 19:17

Good. Well, but back to my original question, I guess the ways that you use this information, so it sounds like you can benchmark you can, you know, there's the idea of just filling out the form sort of "it's the journey, not the destination" kind of approach where asking the questions forces an institution to think through all these components. But I know it's also used for other rating systems and there's just the general STARS rating that you do. What are some of the other ways that campuses use the information, or that it gets used outside of that?

Julian Dautremont 19:43

So, yeah, I think the first way that campuses typically use their program is for internal purposes, for planning and identifying where there's opportunities for improvement, where they're strong, how they compare with others. And then they can develop a plan around that like, okay, in two years from now, we want to be this level of the STARS score, or we want to have these programs in place. And that's a huge thing for especially for new sustainability staff. STARS provides a way to get a really good picture of the lay of the land at their institutions. It gives them an excuse, in a sense to talk to almost everybody on campus because you have to talk to a lot of different people to get all the data you need and that's a great sort of way to start making your way around campus and start to identify who might be a good ally, what opportunities there are for improvement, and then make a case to your stakeholders on campus for why you're focusing on one area or another. So that's the first thing. Then as you suggested, there are some pretty big reasons to do it from a recognition standpoint. So you do get the rating from STARS based on your score. The scoring data also feeds into Sierra Club's "Cool School's" ranking. So that's published every year and Sierra magazine. The STARS data also feeds into the Princeton Review's, green rankings, which they also publish a book, a guide degree in colleges, that include a ranking that's based on data that campuses submit through STARS. And then we, at AASHE, publish our own, something called the sustainable campus index, which ranks campus is in each of the categories that we assess in STARS. So you can see the top performers in the energy category, in the investment category, and water, and waste, and all the different impact areas I mentioned earlier. So there's a ton of recognition that comes with it. And our goal with STARS was to help campuses to report and communicate their progress more easily to students and employees because before STARS, lots of campuses were doing their own sustainability reports, but there was no way to make sense of the sustainability report. So again, that's another big reason that campuses do it. And then I think a last one I'll mentioned is on the education side of things. Doing STARS is an educational experience, you can learn a ton from it. And there's some really great opportunities to engage students along the way. And many institutions do either hire students to help with the process, or even use classes as a part of the data collection process. Could be an introduction to environmental studies class or a capstone course, where students actually play a role in collecting the data and entering it into the STARS reporting system. And I think it provides some valuable experiential learning into what it means to try to measure sustainability. What are the strengths and weaknesses of sustainability measurement approaches? And then they learn more about their campus as well, and what's going on in their campus, and potentially how they might play a role in strengthening their institution's sustainability program.

Dave Karlsgodt 22:34

How is STARS set up to avoid campuses just chasing the points? Because I, from what I understand, the points are set up, like, you get a certain number of points for answering yes or no to certain questions. How do you keep people from gaming the system?

Julian Dautremont 22:45

Yeah, it's something we struggle with, right? And it is a real challenge with those type of questions that are just yes/no because it does seem to encourage some out of point chasing. We've tried to create the credit so that if somebody does point chase, it's helpful. They're doing something that will actually advance their sustainability performance. They're not doing something that is just a distraction. So that's part of the answer, is trying to frame credits so that any points that people earn, it's because they've done something useful.

Dave Karlsgodt 23:14

In other words, if you're chasing points, the points are structured such that the things that they get points for are really what sustainability is all about. So you've kind of built that in, is that what you're saying?

Julian Dautremont 23:23

Exactly, yeah. That's the first part of trying to minimize the point chasing. The second part of it is that we also weight the credits within stars so that those things that are more impactful are worth more points. So we're trying to drive attention towards those things where there's a high opportunity for making an impact rather than things that the impact is less clear. So you'll see in STARS, the point value for each credit can vary quite widely. And some things are worth a lot more points and that's because we feel like that particular area and making progress in that credit has a greater impact than perhaps the other credit. So those two things collectively, I think, minimize the dangers of point chasing to a pretty significant extent.

Dave Karlsgodt 24:06

Whereas one that would be impactful, that might get more points than something that's not as important?

Julian Dautremont 24:11

So sure, a great example of credits that are highly weighted are the greenhouse gas emissions. That credit is pretty easy to measure. I know greenhouse gas emissions can be complicated, but relatively speaking, it's a fairly well established methodology for assessing greenhouse gas emissions. And so, any effofrt you make to reducing your greenhouse gas emissions is going to be positive. It's a performance-based credit, so that one is weighted really highly. Something that's weighted less highly on, like, the engagement side; we have some credits that are, in a sense, just a checklist of strategies you've taken or programs you have to engage students and the campus community in sustainability. Each of those items is going to be like a fraction of a point, whereas the energy credit, I think it's more than 10 points. So we really try to put, again, more points on those things where the benefit of a campus improving it's score is going to be higher.

Dave Karlsgodt 25:01

It's interesting, because you're right, a lot of this stuff is difficult to quantify. You mentioned that earlier, but you had to come up with a way of doing it and exposing students to that or exposing, you know, just as many people to those challenges that you already mentioned. So it's not just them beating you up, because STARS isn't perfect, but everybody sort of learning how to operate within a world of imperfect information. I think that's, you know, that's a noble effort, for sure.

Julian Dautremont 25:24

Yeah, and we hope that people who are participating in the process can help us make it stronger, right. So we're regularly doing surveys of our users. We have a whole governance process that includes technical advisors on each of the different impact areas that we cover, and then a steering committee that's partially elected by AASHE's membership and partially appointed in order to fill any gaps. But there are campus sustainability staff and others at all levels of that process, providing guidance to help strengthen the system, and we would not be anywhere close to where we are now if we didn't have that feedback mechanism. It has really made the program stronger every year because of all the ideas and feedback that we get through that structure.

Dave Karlsgodt 26:05

You know, just give us a little bit of color on how it feels to be where we are today. Like, do you feel good about the direction where things are going? Or, you know, where tell us where are you proud of how things have changed and morphed and maybe where are some places that you really see are still big sticking points that you want to improve?

Julian Dautremont 26:23

So I am really proud of how far STARS has come since it was just an idea when we were starting. And we have sort of like, seems like it would be better if there was a measurement tool that we're all using so we could compare with one another and we could talk the same language and we could try to identify, you know, campuses that are really doing great jobs, so we could learn from them. And stars really fulfilled a lot of the early goals that we had. And there were a lot of people, including us at times, that were like are like there's no way to do this. It's too hard, you can't do it fair, the higher ed. is too different, or, you know, there's a range of real challenges that I wouldn't say we've overcome, there's still challenges, but we've found a way to make a tool that worked well enough for a sizable enough body of campuses that it has really started to play the role that we hope it can. So that feels really good. Big picture, there's still room for improvement. Sustainability is not where I would have hoped it would be in terms of higher ed. priorities at this point in time. Right? When we started in the early 2000s, it was just emerging, and there was a lot of excitement and growth. And that growth continued through maybe 2012, 2013, it feels like, before it started to plateau. And not universally, there's definitely still things that are growing, but as a whole, the movement doesn't seem to be growing as fast as it was. And I'm not sure if it's moving fast enough in light of the challenges we're facing. So that is an area that I always struggle with is, there's so much to do to transform our institutions to be fulfilling their potential, to be sustainability leaders that we have not yet got to. And I think there's good reasons for it, it's totally understandable, but at the same time, it is a source of concern.

Dave Karlsgodt 28:05

Yeah. Do you think that just because going from not doing anything to starting to do something feels like a lot of progress, but when you are in the throes of it, the incremental change of day to day changes, or, you know, you're getting a little better every year, but it's hard to see that? Or is it just literally there's been some big walls that you've hit?

Julian Dautremont 28:22

I think it's different in each campus, right? Because I'm not talking about AASHE specifically at this point, but more just the higher ed. sustainability movement. So, I think there's some national political things that have slowed things down for sure, or at least taken attention off of some of the sustainability things we've been working towards, changes in executives and different priorities. It's hard to pinpoint any particular reason. I almost don't think there's anything that is a surprise or anything, like, really wrong, per se, it's just the scale of the problem that we face as a civilization, as a society is so vast that higher ed. is one piece of that and it's still fantastically hard to change at the pace that we need, is really what it comes down to. So it's not that higher ed. is doing anything wrong, or even that it's not changing, because it is changing. It's just, the question is whether it's fast enough. And that's a question that does apply to society at large, it's not just a higher ed. thing. The changes that are needed are vast and it's not clear we're changing fast enough.

Dave Karlsgodt 29:25

So, let's just come back to STARS, then it sounds like, so you've just released 2.2. Is that the current version or something close to that?

Julian Dautremont 29:31

Sorry, 2.1 is the version that is still in effect. 2.2 will be coming out shortly, but it has not yet been officially released yet.

Dave Karlsgodt 29:40

Got it. And then what, like how often do new releases come out? What does that process look like? So, and I guess with that question, if I'm a campus and I fill out 2.1, do I just have to start over for 2.2? Or is that just couple additional questions? Or how does that work?

Julian Dautremont 29:53

Great questions. So there's no fixed development timeline, so new versions come out, in a sense, when they're ready. And the time between each new version has lengthened over time. So I think 2.1 came out in 2016. So we're now 2019. So yeah, like a three year time period, just from 2.1 to 2.2. So there, there definitely is quite a bit of a gap. And then, when we do a larger revision, like what we'll be doing soon from 2.2 to 3.0, those take even longer. I don't think that's going to be... Yeah, I think it's at least 2022 probably before that comes out. Because, so we have within STARS, there's three types of changes. There's what we call administrative changes, which are fixing typos, like literally like tiny things that should have no implication on your score, just clarifications and typos basically or rewording something to try to make it clear what we're asking. Those we can do, sometimes a couple of year, when a new version comes out, just to fix issues that people have brought to our attention. Then we have what we do from like a 2.1 to 2.2. and that is called like a minor revision and there's limitations on what we can do there. We can't fundamentally overhaul the system. We can tweak some credits, add a credit here or there, but fundamentally, it's going to look pretty similar, you know, you're not going to see a huge difference. There'll be a couple credits that did change pretty significantly, but the overall structure is the same and it's pretty familiar system still. And then the big picture ones, the major revisions, they actually need to go through a whole public feedback process before they can be approved. So they end up taking quite a bit longer. And all of them, I should say too, any new version of any three of those levels, all of those changes have to go through the steering committee that I mentioned earlier. They are the final authority on any new version of STARS. So that also helps ensure that any changes we're making are going to be broadly acceptable and and make sense. And it also kind of slows down the process, which I think is probably good because I think there are some legitimate concerns about what happens when we make a change that it complicates things, it's confusing, and people don't like when we change too often. But to answer your question about what happens if you were already in the middle of doing a 2.1 submission, no problem at all. You have a year after we switch. So we will, at some point later this month, we will officially switch to stars 2.2. If you've got 2.1 in progress, you can wait until June of next year and still submit under stars 2.1 and get the rating and scoring of that version. You're welcome to upgrade and we have a tool to migrate any of your data. As long as the fields have stayed the same, your data will all go into the same place in 2.2. And then you'll just have to update. If we've changed the field, you'll have to re enter the data for that field, but we've tried to design it so that it's not too difficult to upgrade and you're not losing any work that was appropriate for 2.2.

Dave Karlsgodt 32:50

Got it. No, that makes I don't envy you managing that process as a, like I said, software developer in background I...Yeah, keeps me up at night trying to think about how to keep all that stuff in line because people don't like it when things break, but it sounds like you at least trying to address that and smooth it out as much as possible.

Julian Dautremont 33:06

Yeah, exactly. We do what we can to make it a smooth process and to minimize the transition costs.

Dave Karlsgodt 33:13

If somebody wanted to get involved with that steering committee, is that something that you recruit? Or how does that process work?

Julian Dautremont 33:18

Yeah, every fall we have sort of a governance nomination or application process. And with the STARS steering committee in particular (because we're also looking at the same time, I should say, for candidates for our advisory council, which is where the STARS technical advisors sit, and then our board as well, so the these three different kind of governance bodies: board, steering committee, and the advisory council). We recruit for them all around the same time. It's an online application. The STARS one, as I mentioned before, there are elections, so people will be invited to stand for election to join the steering committee. And the election typically happens in November. And then whoever's selected will start on the steering committee the next January. And depending how many seats are available, there may be a couple appointed positions as well and that would be, we usually appoint from the pool of people who ran for election. And often it's the runners up, but sometimes there's a reason that we want to make sure we have some perspective represented and so the steering committee will then decide, okay, let's go, let's invite this person to join the steering committee as well. But the entry point for somebody who's not on the steering committee right now is to watch out for that solicitation in the fall and put your name forward. You'll have to submit like a brief resume and a description of why you want to be on the steering committee, but it's designed to be fairly straightforward. And you can always reach out to me with any questions as well.

Dave Karlsgodt 34:42

Got it, but they can't reach out to you and blame you for every question, because it wasn't just you, right? That's not how it works.

Julian Dautremont 34:49

I mean, they can. I welcome feedback in any form, at any time. So that's fine. I always prefer when it's paired with, you know, constructive suggestions for improvement. But sometimes diagnosing the problem is important, too. We may know about it, but we might not, so it can't hurt to send it our way.

Dave Karlsgodt 35:08

Enlightened response. We'll take it from there. Alright, well, Julian, as we wrap up today's show, can you just give us a little bit of a vision for what does this look like going into the future? If we think 5, 10 years from now? What's the legacy you want to leave in your work with STARS? What is what does it look like? And how is it changing the world, you know, in the future?

Julian Dautremont 35:28

Sure. So it prompts for me STARS 3.0 and what we're thinking about for that. So that's the next big version and we've got lots of ideas, some of which will probably not happen, but I think it's helpful to put them on the table as things that we're working towards. They may not be in 3.0, but they could be picked up again for 3.1 or 4.0. So, the first thing that we're really thinking about a lot these days, and have been for a while, is can we move to a more dynamic form of reporting? So right now, campuses submit a STARS report and it's good for three years. They can update as often as every year if they want, but they don't need to. Your STARS rating is sort of legitimate or valid for three years from the date of submission. So that's great, but oftentimes campuses want to update some of their data, but not all of it. We don't have a process to allow that right now. Right now, if you want to update a single credit, you've got to submit a whole new STARS report. So we know there are campuses that, you know, their energy data changes every year, it makes sense to update it every year. The curriculum inventory, to see what percent of courses address sustainability, it doesn't necessarily change that quickly in most cases. So you might not want to update that every year. So creating a way to allow campuses to just update those things where they've made progress or have something new to report, but not be required to update every other field is one of the ideas for 3.0. And so we call that dynamic reporting. I'm also excited about trying to to expand STARS globally, right? We mostly have users in the U.S. and Canada right now. But we have a cohort of institutions in Australia and New Zealand, that is trying it. And we also have a number of campuses sort of individually in other parts world that are trying it as well. We had our first STARS gold institution outside of the U.S. and Canada recently from an institution in Ireland. So that's really exciting to me, the potential for STARS to be kind of the global platform for institutions to share their sustainability work. And as part of that we're trying to align STARS more and more with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are a really powerful framework at the international level that's guiding a lot of decision making. There's lots of movement and activity around the STGs. And higher ed. too is interested in figuring out what, you know, what is our role in relation to the STGs? So to the extent that STARS can be a tool to assess that and report on that, we think that would be a powerful contribution to the global conversation. Another thing that we're looking at that I'm excited about (and I'll close with this one). So one of the ideas that we're exploring is trying to identify, within the family of STARS credits right now, what are the credits that are most representative of a transformational sustainability program? So what are the like key foundational elements of a transformational sustainability program? And can we kind of pull those out of STARS and have a real simple, or simpler, let's say more simple than doing all of STARS, just focusing on those core elements and having there be a way that campuses just getting started could just do those, it's probably like 15 items, it's not super long, it's not as long as the full stars, and have that be an entry point into STARS, just focusing on those 15 areas and reporting on that. That's something that I'm pretty excited about and I think could open the door for a much bigger population of schools to start using STARS. And then once they've got some of those foundational pieces in place, then they can start looking at some of the more quantitative, performance-based metrics that we've got and start building into doing full STARS. That's my current ideas as to what would be the best way to bring in new institutions.

Dave Karlsgodt 39:12

It's kind of like the easy form for doing your taxes, right?

Julian Dautremont 39:17

Yeah, there you go, I hadn't thought of that. But that's a good way to describe it.

Dave Karlsgodt 39:21

Perfect, okay. Alright, final question for you then is if people want to learn more or get involved, what's the best way to get in touch with AASHE, especially those who are not already members and may not be familiar with the organization?

Julian Dautremont 39:33

Sure. So the website, it's a great place to start. And then when you're on our website, you can create an account and get subscribed to our newsletters. So that's a way to stay up to date on what's going on with AASHE, what are the opportunities for getting involved, and what are other campuses doing around sustainability. And there's a number of different groups you can opt into to get those kind of communications. Beyond that, you can always send us an email, the sort of generic email is info@AASHE.org. But you can reach out to me directly if you want, it's just julian@AASHE.org, or any of you know, the staff list is on the website. And so, reach out to the person who's responsible for whatever area you're interested in, is a good place to start. But again, if you're not even sure, like, I don't know who to go to, that info address is a fine starting place. It goes to one of my colleagues, and then she'll forward it to the person who's most relevant to answer whatever question you have. And that's what we're here for. So, you know, don't hesitate. If we can be useful, we always would like to do that.

Dave Karlsgodt 40:33

Well, I'll look forward to seeing you in Spokane at the conference this fall. But thanks again for coming on the show and explaining all about STARS and your vision for a, I don't know, a sustainably measured future.

Julian Dautremont 40:46

Thank you. And thanks so much for having me. And yeah, look forward to seeing you in Spokane as well. And then I hope some of your listeners will join us there as well.

Dave Karlsgodt 40:53

Great. Thanks, Julian.

Julian Dautremont 40:54

Thank you, and have a great day.

Dave Karlsgodt 40:57

That's it for this episode. I want to give a shout out to the staff at AASHE for setting up this interview, as well as our new intern Sarah Barr, who helped to produce this episode. To learn more about today's episode or any of our shows, you can visit our website at campusenergypodcast.com. We recently added a new transcript feature on the website and we're working to add this to all of our previous episodes. If you want to follow us on Twitter, we are @energypodcast. We also recently added a page on LinkedIn. Just search for the campus energy and sustainability podcast. If you'd like to support the show, please consider leaving a rating or review on iTunes, or sending a link to a friend. As always, thanks for listening.

Episode 18: University of Virginia's Delta Force Program

Andrea Trimble (left), Jesse Warren (right)

Andrea Trimble (left), Jesse Warren (right)

Guests:
Andrea Trimble, CEM, LEED AP BD+C, O+M
Office for Sustainability Director
University of Virginia

Jesse Warren PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C, O+M
Sustainability Program Manager for Buildings & Operations
University of Virginia

Host: Dave Karlsgodt
Principal, Fovea, LLC

The focus of this episode is the University of Virginia’s Delta Force, a self-funded building energy efficiency and sustainability program. You’ll hear how UVA has taken a $400,000 seed fund to yield $42M dollars in energy related cost savings to the University. We get into the nuts and bolts of the program but also zoom back to talk more generally about their sustainability programs and collaboration with their city and regional governments.

Resources:

Episode Transcript:

The following is an automated transcription of this episode which will include errors and omissions. You can listen and follow along with the text here:

https://otter.ai/s/jfxGTvi0RGCKkHO3dQ4lOw

David Karlsgodt 0:00

Welcome to the campus energy and sustainability podcast. In each episode, we'll talk with leading campus professionals thought leaders and engineers and innovators addressing the unique challenges and opportunities facing higher ed and corporate campuses. Our discussions will range from energy conservation and efficiency to planning and finance, from building science to social science, from energy systems to food systems, we hope you're ready to learn, share and ultimately accelerate your institution towards solutions. I'm your host, Dave Karlsgodt, I'm a principal at Fovea an energy, carbon and business planning firm.

Jesse Warren 0:33

The biggest thing that I love about my job is that we have the freedom and flexibility to identify what is the best path forward for the university, as opposed to being prescribed to a specific one.

Andrea Trimble 0:45

We've reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by about 19% since 2009, despite very extensive growth, and a lot of that has been attributable to energy efficiency.

Jesse Warren 0:57

When I came to UVA, I was worried that I was going to have to fill out a requisition form to do a project in the next budget year and things like that. And that told me that I wasn't going to have the impact. But what I learned is things like the Delta Force model that allow our funding to revolve makes sure that our impact is significant and its immediate.

David Karlsgodt 1:19

In this episode, you'll hear my interview with two staff from the University of Virginia. First Andrea Trimble, office for sustainability director, and Jesse Warren, sustainability program manager for building and operations. The focus of our conversation is UVA is Delta Force, a self funded building energy efficiency and sustainability program. You'll hear how UVA has taken a $400,000 seed fund to yield $42 million in energy related cost savings to the university. We certainly get into the nuts and bolts of the program. But we also zoom back to talk more generally about their sustainability programs, and how they're collaborating with their city and regional governments. Before we get started, a quick thank you to all of you who shared our recent summer internship job posting, we had an overwhelming response. And we're honored and humbled by all of the amazing candidates that said it applications. I asked my wife to help me in reviewing the applications. And this morning, she told me that compared to all the negative news We've been living through, reading the ideas of these passionate, smart, articulate young people ready to take on the world's challenges gave her a great deal of hope. I couldn't agree with her more. And I look forward to introducing a new voice to the podcast the summer. For now, please enjoy this may 1 interview with Andrea Trimble and Jesse Warren from the University of Virginia.

Andrea and Jesse, it's great to have you on the podcast today.

Andrea Trimble 2:44

It's great to be here. Thank you for having me. Thanks, Dave.

David Karlsgodt 2:46

Well, I'm excited to have you both here today to talk about your building Efficiency Program and sustainability programs, specifically the Delta Force program. And I know we're going to get into a bunch of different topics, including building standards, students, faculty and community engagement and project finance all sorts of fun stuff, I'm sure. But before we get into that, can you both just introduce yourselves so we know who we're talking to? And maybe give a little bit of background on the UVA campus? Just so people know where you are? Andrew, why don't you start?

Andrea Trimble 3:20

Sounds good. My name is Andrea Trimble and I am director of movies office for sustainability, which is a team of 13 full time staff and 18 part time student employees who focus on strategic planning, collaboration, program and event management, project implementation and engagement communication with two primary aspects to the office of outreach and engagement side. And we have staff associated with that and an energy engineering side of the staff associated with buildings and recycling. UVA is fairly large, we have over 16,000 undergrads over 6000 graduate students, over 16,000 employees, and over 16 million square feet of building space. This also includes a large hospital and health system, which is included in all of our goals and UNESCO World Heritage Site, our Thomas Jefferson's lon. And we're tied to

David Karlsgodt 4:11

thanks, Jesse, over to you.

Jesse Warren 4:12

My name is Jesse Warren. I'm our sustainability program manager for buildings and operations. What that means is I'm responsible for energy efficiency on the building side of the meter, I'm responsible for new renewable energy development on grounds as well as our Solid Waste Management Program. The university is somewhat unique in that we have campus energy systems that are provided by both fossil fuels and electricity, and those are sold to our individual buildings.

David Karlsgodt 4:39

Alright, thanks for that. Let's dive right into talking about the Delta Force program, which was the premise of what we wanted to talk about in this show. So maybe Jesse, can you just give us an overview of the program, and then we can dive into some of the details?

Jesse Warren 4:53

Sure. So Delta Force is our internal building retro commissioning program, we've been working for about a decade on retro commissioning existing buildings on grounds. The way we do that is by creating sort of a multifunctional team of folks that consist of energy engineers like myself, as well as building operators, maintenance technicians, and outside subcontractors to be able to get these buildings to their peak performance. We do this through an internal revolving fund model, where we, we fund the initial investments into energy efficiency, and then we recover 125% of that investment over time. So our construction costs end up being recovered through the energy savings of those projects. And that helps fund the the office for sustainability and our internal operations.

David Karlsgodt 5:43

Tell me a little bit about the scale of savings you're talking about.

Jesse Warren 5:48

At the end of calendar year, 18, we have invested $16.7 million into Delta Force, and we've saved over $42 million in avoided energy cost. Wow, those are real metered savings. And that is the net of our savings. So if some building has gone over, that's been taken into account, when I quote that 42 million,

David Karlsgodt 6:06

you're not just counting your successes, you're counting your your failures is running that number. That's great. All right. Well, Andrea, you were the one that reached out to me about this program. What specifically was it about the Delta Force that you thought would be relevant to the listeners of this podcast?

Andrea Trimble 6:22

So one aspect of our work that's very important to us is to share replicable models that could be implemented elsewhere, in order to scale impact, especially as we all collectively work together on urgent global issues and climate change. We really value the importance of sharing materials and lessons learned with anyone who's interested. I've been focused on sustainability in higher education for about 13 years now. And I really think the Delta Force program is an innovative but replicable program with really impressive financial energy and greenhouse gas results.

David Karlsgodt 6:53

Well, I'm excited to dig into some of these details. But how did you guys get this started? We talk a lot with clients about the idea of having a revolving fund and reinvesting and using the savings from one project to reinvest to the other. But how did you get this off the ground in the first place?

Jesse Warren 7:09

Well, I mentioned early on that we've got a strong energy and utilities infrastructure here on campus, and our plants are selling hot water and chilled water to our buildings. And our buildings are returning chilled water and hot water to them. So what happens is we identified buildings that had a very low chilled water delta t. And we own the energy and utility side said, we're going to go into those buildings. And we're going to make those investments in retro commissioning and new vows in order to increase the delta t across the building. That'll make our plants more efficient. And that'll make it cheaper for the enterprise to run. We enter we invested about $400,000 into that project. And we generated about $800,000 a year and energy savings, meaning we had about a six month payback on that investment. So the university said okay, we'll take back our $400,000. But we will give to you the other $400,000 in order to seed or evolving fun program to keep these kinds of investments moving. That was in about 2009. Since then, we've undertaken about 30 projects encompassing close to 50 buildings, in varying levels of energy efficiency retrofits ranging from light retro commissioning all the way down to deep energy retrofits including new lighting, water fixtures, etc.

David Karlsgodt 8:28

So Jesse, just so my dad, when he listens to this podcast, can and get what you're saying, can you explain the concept of delta-T, because I think that's pretty critical for people to understand.

Jesse Warren 8:38

Sure. So when we send chilled water out to a building, we send that chilled water out at about 44 degrees, we want that chilled water to come back at like 64 degrees, because that's how our machines are designed to work. When those buildings are performing poorly, that water can come back at like 48 degrees, that means you've got a four degree temperature rise across the system and that of the 20 degree temperature rise that our systems are looking for. and forcing our machines to operate in those conditions leads to a loss and performance and degradation over time.

David Karlsgodt 9:10

Basically, you want to suck more of the cold out. Is that a way to think about it?

Jesse Warren 9:13

exactly. To get into the engineering of it. Your efficiency is dictated by these temperatures. And the broader the span of the temperatures, the better than machine can operate.

David Karlsgodt 9:24

Okay, great. Well, I think you mentioned this, but what was the source of that original funding? Can you remind me?

Jesse Warren 9:30

that was funded through energy and utilities programs, so the chiller plants were operating at less than optimal performance, and they came up with the idea to go into these buildings and retro condition them. So for years, the Delta Force program before we incorporated the office for sustainability actually lived in energy and utilities, and not in building maintenance, because that was what was really the original funding source.

David Karlsgodt 9:53

Okay, good. So but it sounds like you got this first big project and you had great results. And then you were able to expand that out and take it from there. How did the program developed since then? I mean, so you had the big project, what, how did you get your second project, your third project, etc.

Jesse Warren 10:08

So once we had a track record of success, it was really a matter of identifying those big energy consuming buildings, and then putting in place the pieces that we needed to retro condition them. When I say retro condition, I'm talking about bringing all the systems back to the level of performance that they had when they originally designed. I think that's a noble goal. But our goal today is to do better than that. We want the buildings to perform better than design. So it's retro commissioning, plus all these energy efficiency activities that come into it. So once we started sort of persuading people that this was an opportunity, we were able to sort of grow that reputation and fund on campus.

David Karlsgodt 10:46

Now, that's an interesting point. So you're saying even the building is originally designed is not as good as you're able to get buildings to? Now? That's correct. Is that? Is that because that when they design them? Is it that they're not thinking hard enough, they're being too conservative? Or is it just that the technology's gotten better, or you've just understood how the systems work better or

Jesse Warren 11:06

a little bit of all three, to be honest with you. The systems were designed to do what was appropriate back then. And today's codes and standards have evolved because we have a better understanding of ventilation or building envelope designed, for instance. So we don't just try to bring it back to the original condition, we try to bring it to the condition that it wants to be today. So as we look forward, that involves things like air change optimization around laboratories, we've got spaces that were designed to be lat have laboratory ventilation systems, but are not being used as labs, whether that's through a change in space, or a decision that was made an initial design, we can come back through and recalibrate those spaces to use significantly less energy. And while we're at it be a lot less noisy and intrusive on the building occupants.

David Karlsgodt 11:53

Got it. Okay, so you're treating these like long term working assets, rather than like a disposable building, essentially. Right?

Jesse Warren 11:59

Okay. If you think about our long term history here on grounds, I mean, we're celebrating our 200th anniversary, and many of our buildings are built out of, you know, slate roofs and copper gutters. And in order to make those kinds of decisions, they make sense on the 50 or hundred year scale. Now MEP decisions, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing decisions aren't being made that way. But for our buildings that we know are not going anywhere, we're taking the longest view.

David Karlsgodt 12:24

So Jesse, a key point, something that seems central to figuring this all out would be metering. Can you tell us a little bit about how your buildings are metered? how detailed is that? How much do you rely on that information?

Jesse Warren 12:37

Yeah, so metering is sort of the crux of everything that we do, right. Because if you think about the way the Delta Force model works, we look back upon historical metering data to understand what the building was doing before we got started. And we continue to charge them that baseline, as we reduce energy, the energy reduction, cost comes back to us. So we are taking credit for the avoid cost associated with our work. And then once we achieve our cost recovery, the mechanism falls away. And now the School of Business Unit against a benefit.

David Karlsgodt 13:14

So is that based on a couple of years, is a weather normalized, like how do you how do you do that to make sure you don't just, you know, one building had a bad year or something went wrong, and that's the baseline or vice versa, that you know, they weren't using it at all. So their baseline was really low.

Jesse Warren 13:26

Yeah, that's a risk that we kind of take on ourselves, we've got to be really judicious with the projects that we choose to make sure that things like that aren't going to happen. Like, I'll give you an example. There's a building on grounds that we've wanted to do ever since it was built, but it hasn't reached full occupancy yet. So for our model, once the occupancy increases by 25%, with that final build out, that's when we really have an opportunity to come in and manage energy. for better for worse, our model doesn't work when the building is partially occupied, or isn't a state of transition.

David Karlsgodt 13:57

Yeah, do you have other mechanisms stick it at things like that is that just that's not within the scope of what your Delta Force program is trying to deal with?

Jesse Warren 14:04

Well, we're working on them. We've got a couple of different ideas on how to manage that. But Delta Force is sort of the primary vehicle, we've considered an Andrea, feel free to chime in if you think I'm out of line here. But we have considered something more like a green revolving fund that would negotiate these payments, instead of relying on actual building metering to generate the savings. By doing that, we would decouple some of the risk associated with what you're talking about be whether or increased occupancy, but still showing the avoid cost against the calculated based on

David Karlsgodt 14:40

got it, but right now you're using meters. And and and that's that's the, you know, kind of a reliable way of getting at it. And

Jesse Warren 14:46

it remains really important to us even today, because that's the level in which we interact with the customers utility bills, we're going to set the customers utility bills to that baseline. And we're going to repeat that year over year until we get to cost recovery that can be anywhere from two years on a spectacular project to 4, 6, 8 on a more typical one.

David Karlsgodt 15:07

No, that makes that makes total sense. But how I mean, I hate to dwell on this too much. But I just know how much blood sweat and tears I've put into trying to get at some of these questions, you know, just from a consulting perspective, not necessarily trying to manage it directly. But I find that in most cases, the building meter data that I see at universities is pretty rough. Yeah, did you guys spend quite a few years just getting your, your numbers and processes and like the tool set figured out first? Or has that kind of happened along the way, as you've added buildings, and you just didn't do it for the few buildings you were focused on or, I mean, Talk Talk to me about how that process, you know, laid out, we don't need to get into the nitty gritty of you know exactly how you did it. But just

Jesse Warren 15:50

so in, in broad strokes, we've got about 550 buildings on grounds, most of those buildings, our buildings, even though some of them may be a pump house or something like that. Regardless, they're all metered. And the reason they're metered is because we buy electricity at the substation level at about six cents a kilowatt hour, and we sell it back to our buildings at about eight cents a kilowatt hour. That means we own and operate all of the electrical infrastructure between the substation the building itself, but if we had our energy company bring power directly to that building, it would cost us close to nine cents a kilowatt hour. So we've been generating instant value for the university by taking on the strong energy and utilities enterprise. But in order to make that strong energy and utilities enterprise work, we needed to have strong metering in place. So we've had a metering and billing group who's been focused on this for years. And that gave us the opportunity to interfere with that process with Delta Force. I've told countless universities and other installations that they need good metering in order to put a program like this in place as for

David Karlsgodt 17:01

No, that makes sense. And it sounds like even just the delta between what you guys can get as a wholesale customer and what you would have to charge individual departments that they were to hook up directly to the utility, that difference would justify the metering by itself. I imagine that's a pretty big spread of price, right? There

Jesse Warren 17:18

it is. And so if you think about the rotunda in the lawn and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, we're serving all that from hot water and chilled water that's being generated elsewhere. There's no good place to hang a cooling tower on the rotunda.

David Karlsgodt 17:33

Yes, and the architects are appreciative that you didn't try. Right.

Jesse Warren 17:36

Agreed.

David Karlsgodt 17:38

Excellent. Okay. Know that I appreciate that. That's, that is maybe a little bit of a secret sauce that I think others can learn from. So, um, okay. Well, you mentioned that you've got slate roofs, and some, 200 year old buildings and things like that. How much of this work are you doing in house versus outsourcing, because it seems like there's some pretty specialized skill sets involved there.

Jesse Warren 18:02

Yeah, so we operate on sort of a zone maintenance perspective. So we've got about 10 maintenance zones who are responsible for the boots on the ground work and most of these buildings. And then we've got specialty shops. Those specialty shops consist of things like building automation or fire alarm. And we can deploy those resources from a central location. What we have done is we have worked with our local maintenance zones to identify what their capacity is. So for some zones, we can do a lot of electrical work. And we want to do all of that with them, because they take the most pride in the work that they've done, because they're the ones who have to go back and maintain it over time. If you think about my LED lighting change out, we want the maintenance zones to be engaged in that because they're the ones who are ultimately going to benefit from the reduced maintenance associated with LED, so they should know how to service and work on them. And by installing them, they can get there. We also focus on their essential shops for things like build automation. So in order to achieve the work that Delta Force has set forth, we have created this building optimization team. Now I don't want to take credit for this. This lives over an automation services because they've done a great job coming up with a team of cross functional HPC mechanics, pipe fitters, electricians who can controls technicians who can strip the pneumatic controls, often existing building and re install digital, while the customer is none the wiser. That is how we perform most of our work working with local maintenance zones or with our building optimization team to actually deploy these things. But when we need surgery, switching capacity will go out to outside vendors as well. So for instance, we recently did some lighting projects in residence halls, and those needed to be done in a very short time-frame. And so our maintenance folks were already busy doing other maintenance work during the shutdown. So we'll bring in outside subcontractors to do revamping electrical work, even mechanical work if it's a appropriate. But I would say our guiding focus is if we're going to be doing something in the longest term, we need to think about how we staff up to do it. If it's something that we're going to do temporarily, or that's not part of our core business, we look at how we shop it out.

David Karlsgodt 20:15

Okay, yeah, that makes sense. That seems like a reasonable way to make that determination. Stepping back, though, is something you just said, you know, something we get a lot of push back on when we talk to clients about this concept of a long range Efficiency Program is the actual getting people out of the buildings and the whole mechanics of it. You know, it's one thing to look at it on a spreadsheet, it's quite another to really think about how many buildings you're going to disrupt. But based on what you just said, it sounds like you can do this work without getting people out of the buildings. Tell me more about that.

Jesse Warren 20:46

Yeah, so for the most part, we can service these buildings while they're occupied. And a great example of that is Clark Hall. Clark Hall is the original School of Law on grounds. So it was built in about the 1930s. But around 2005, we built a large wet lab and library addition on to him. So we got the idea of why don't we look at that as an energy efficiency retrofit. And we were able to do a lot of the work with the building optimization team while the building was occupied. But that building has labs and it has lab hoods. And those lab hoods are used for noxious chemicals and things that otherwise shouldn't be breathed in. And we had to shut down those lab hoods, because we had people on the roof. And when the wind blew a certain way, or they stood in a certain place, they would get headaches or they would get killed. So we have to shut down buildings if things like lab ventilation is threatening the people who are doing the work. But under normal circumstances, they can do things like hotwire the return air temperature sensor so that you can run off that so that they can do the work they need to program their controllers in time.

David Karlsgodt 21:55

Got it. So yeah, major renovations you are still moving people out of at least portions the building, but for some of those things that you're doing again, and again, and again, as you work your way through work in technology through the buildings, right able to do it in segments. That makes sense.

Jesse Warren 22:10

So if we have for instance, a two week shut down, that might require four months of coordination to get all the pieces and parts in place, get the researchers out of their space so that we can shut the building down to do what we need to do temporarily.

David Karlsgodt 22:23

Got it? Um, let's talk about construction standards for building. So you have buildings going back 200 years, but you're building new spaces, I'm assuming as well. You're renovating buildings all the time? What type of standards do you have in place that guide how you know how good the building is going to be when you build something new or renovate something that you're renovating? Andrew, you want this one?

Andrea Trimble 22:46

Sure. So in terms of sustainability, UV has required LEED certification for several years. About two years ago, the Office for sustainability and partner ship with others across the University City started developing Green Building Standards. And these are both process oriented as well as prescriptive. The idea behind the standards was twofold really one that we go beyond the minimum requirements of lead to put in place minimum EV requirements for new construction and major renovations. But then also to enable a process that is collaborative and gets the UV owner, the various constituent stakeholders on the TV side, on the same page as to what the project goal should be and match against. So for example, similar to some other green betting Sanders at other universities, we have requirements for integrated design, setting goals early in the project. And then matching to those goals through energy modeling and lifecycle costing at each phase of design. We also put in place, minimum Eli energies intensity target or the building. So the way that we do this, instead of setting requirement, that's a percentage below ashtray, we set it up requirement that's 25%, below a baseline that we determined. So the way that we determine that baseline is we take buildings of like type at UVA, look at their meter performance, and then cut 25% off of that as the minimum target for new construction. And those went into place about a year ago. So we're starting to get some good feedback and some good metrics as to what's working well on that. And soon we'll have buildings constructed in in operation so we can measure the success of this different sort of energy target.

David Karlsgodt 24:32

Yeah. Is that because you have? I mean, it sounds like you have a lot of great information on your building. So you're able to do that I think people default to hash rate or something just as a standard. But is that is that part of why are you been able to do that as part of

Andrea Trimble 24:43

right? That's part of why so the having the good meter data for all these buildings? We were finding that? Because Yeah, because we're able to get much more specific on the building the next building types within a particular building. When we do that. We are hoping that we think we won't get much better predictions of energy consumption.

David Karlsgodt 25:04

Great. Yeah, no, that's and there, you can think about things like how does this deal with their district energy system versus just kind of a standalone building? Like you might run into an

ashtray standard? Okay.

Interesting. All right. Well, one other silly question I have is, is what's the Where did the name come from? You have this called this the Delta Force? Sounds like, I know, you guys aren't too far from a lot of military installations. But I don't think maybe where does the name come from? So delta t.

Jesse Warren 25:34

So yeah, that's a good question. I don't have the answer to that. I came from sustainability consulting around military installations before I came to UVA. So I'm pretty familiar with the term here. I think it started with the idea that we were chasing delta t, right. But over time, I think it's become, we are capturing the Delta in your utility bills. So if we can do use your energy expense by 25 percent? Well, that 25% comes back to us until we've recovered our investment. So in other words, we capture the Delta up until we're complete. So we have not yet decided which of those two stories is true. I've heard both.

David Karlsgodt 26:16

Yeah, whatever one pulls the best, I guess, right?

Jesse Warren 26:19

Depending on who you're talking to, at the moment.

David Karlsgodt 26:21

Perhaps it'll run for president as well. But

Great, okay, well, maybe let's switch out of the tactical a little bit. This program sounds amazing, and I think would be envied by many listening to this podcast that are in trying to get something similar set up at their own institution. But at some point, you had to get people to buy off on this. And, you know, I do this for a living, but getting non technical people to get excited about things like delta t, is not always the easiest thing to do. But somehow you guys have pulled this off. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got your administration on board,

Jesse Warren 26:57

I have experienced getting caught summers on board, and I came into the program after it already existed. What I can tell you is we have a track record of success and continuing that track record record of successes and everybody's best interest. But for us, I think it came down to having one sort of big win, that we could then parlay into other wins. So if you think about that project that we did over at Mr. For where we identified $400,000 worth of improvements that saved $800,000 a year, I would suggest finding something like that funding it and then figuring out how to get that funding to not return to the initial pocket. That's been a lot of the conversation we have is can you fund something out of one pocket, and then have it roll back into something different, like a revolving fund? And if you've got a quick win like that, where you can show the return on investment with doing so I think you've got a strong case.

David Karlsgodt 27:57

Interesting. Okay. Yeah, that'd be that. Having that kind of return, I guess, happening within one budget cycle, something like that, is that key, or,

Jesse Warren 28:07

or something on the two year, three year range? You know, I talked about Clark Hall. Now, Clark Hall is a big project. For us, we invested nearly $2 million in that between the Delta Force investment and the university's investment. But we managed to cut the building utility costs from $1.2 million a year to about $450,000 a year, saving 67% and about 750,000 a year. So the projects don't have to be small to be a quick win. That was a long win for us, but was a huge one.

David Karlsgodt 28:39

Right? Okay, now, that makes sense. But it also sounds like you had the data, the metering data in that information, and you're charging customers, is that a prerequisite to doing a program like this, do you think

Jesse Warren 28:53

I think the money has to come from somewhere. So I like the idea of holding that baseline and continuing to fund it as if that was real energy expense, because from the customers perspective, it would have been, I think a lot of the value that we bring is that we bring sort of a comprehensive project management solution, right, we come in, we say you don't have to do anything, you just have to agree to the things that we propose. And for the most part, facilities management can come in and perform the work. That's not to say people don't participate. And we don't, we do actively bring occupants into the work that we're doing. But if they so choose, we can perform that project transparently

David Karlsgodt 29:34

got it, they can choose to think about it just as Okay, you're going to make my bill go down and basically not get in my way, or they can be collaborative, and, and work with you.

Jesse Warren 29:41

So like at Clark Hall, for instance, we really focused on occupied engagement. We wanted to know what the occupants desired out of the project. And we also created materials like pledge boards and signage to explain what we done so that people could use that project to actively catalyze their behavior when they're within the building.

David Karlsgodt 30:01

Right. Okay, so communicating what actually happened versus just fixing the things behind the scenes. And nobody actually notices the difference. Maybe they aren't complaining as much, but it's still in the back of their mind.

Jesse Warren 30:10

That's right. So depending on what kind of when you want, it can be a quick low hanging fruit return on investment, we have advanced far enough that we're really focused on comprehensive building solutions that look at everything from building to building occupants. And how can we provide the best for our students and faculty?

David Karlsgodt 30:32

Yeah, how is that transition been going from those quick wins to that the deeper retrofits? Because I imagine you have different motivations, you have different. I mean, it's probably a lot of fun for you, personally, Jesse, I would imagine, right? Because that's what everybody wants to get to rather than just another lighting retrofit. I mean, not that we don't want to do those. But like, what is that? Just how does that feel different? Maybe it's a way I could ask that question.

Well,

Jesse Warren 30:58

let me look at it from the other end, you know, for everything that we fund we've got to pay for, right, so we have an account, and that account is allowed to go up to negative a million dollars, because the university understands that we're going to be spending money before we get it back. Right. So we started out with some money, we have now operated in a deficit. And that's okay with the university operating the deficit, because that's how we get to those bigger projects. When we start to bank money into our account, that tells me we're not doing enough, we're not going deep enough, we're not getting as much energy savings as we could, because we're not making as big investments as we can. So over the 10 year life of the program, we've seen two different swings, where we started to sort of accumulate money, and then realize that we could use that money to make deeper investments. So in the beginning, it was things like, retro commissioning, and it was things like low wattage fluorescent lights, and then we we started making enough money off that that we said, you know, we can move over to LED lighting, and we can start doing things like whole building, commissioning, and controls, replacements and upgrades. And that's what we do today. But even then, we started to see the account balance drop, when we started making more substantial investments. And then we saw the account balance rise again, once those investment starting to pay off. So today, we're in what I call the third phase of that, where we're really going into deep energy efficiency where we're given the opportunity. So that's LED lights. But that's also things like creating a smart labs program, where we can identify what is the safest and correct level of ventilation for the work that people are doing, and then tailor it accordingly. So to bring it back to your question, how do we get to deep energy efficiency projects, I would say it's happened in plateaus. we've, we've demonstrated success at each of these plateaus. And then once we've demonstrated success, we can keep doing the exact same thing. But our universities not asking us to do the exact same thing. They want us to hit aggressive goals, carbon energy, so we're being asked to do more and more.

David Karlsgodt 33:02

So when when you're talking to administrators, now I know you mentioned you weren't really there when the program got set up. But how much do they think about this? or How did they message it? Do you feel like, you know, it's a talking point in speeches they're just reading off? Or is it something that they've really internalized and couldn't really articulate in, you know, in their own way, as administrators,

Jesse Warren 33:22

I'm the ones who are active participants really see the value. Because in the example of Clark Hall, you know, we put $2 million into that building, but we're saving three quarters of a million dollars a year. So by the time we finished our project, we were almost done with our cost recovery. And that frees up money that they can use for faculty for spaces, whatever they need. I would say that spending money on energy is not the highest and best use of dollars at the university. So how can I reduce that?

David Karlsgodt 33:49

Right? Okay, so and then they're able to say it that way. I mean, they're, they're parroting that message out there that which is amazing. That's great.

Jesse Warren 33:56

Yeah, so Arts and Sciences has been a tremendous proponent of ours, we've done many good projects together like that Clark Hall. And so the Dean of Arts and Sciences, as well as our President Jim Ryan recorded sort of congratulatory messages for our Clark Hall celebration, where we celebrated the LEED certification, the building and brought all the occupants back together to sort of show them what they've done.

David Karlsgodt 34:22

Great. So instead of being a cost center, and oh, no, this facility guys are coming back with another big house of money, they're looking at you, as, you know, an investment, a place to invest to focus on the mission of the university, and

Jesse Warren 34:35

they can reduce their energy spend. And they can also reduce their maintenance spend. And both of those are wins, I will recover some of the energy spend immediately, but the maintenance is greatly. So that's just a pure win for them. So when I come back, and I fix systems that are broken, or we put an LED lights where we had fluorescence before, they're going to benefit from that reduced mate and savings on day one, then they will benefit from the reduced energy savings after the project recoveries complete.

David Karlsgodt 35:05

Alright, well, one other systematic setup question was you tell me a little bit more about the billing process? So it sounds like you're charging departments, I assume you've got, you know, auxiliary, non core University components that are also using energy. How do you It sounds like you're acting like utility, what does that look like from various departments on campus when they when interacting with your team?

Jesse Warren 35:31

So we've always had auxiliaries on grounds like Housing and Residence Life, athletics, and things like that. And they've always been self supported. Right. So housing Residence Life is funded through tuition fees, or however that works. But the university used to be centrally funded. And about five years ago, we made a switch away from that into responsibility centered management. So now, we've said that you the department are responsible for that building, not never, they're responsible for the maintenance of it, but you're responsible for the energy consumption, and the spend associated with that, I think part of the intent there was to give local control to that money, so we can do a better job of managing it. One of the realities for the Delta Force program is we went from having one big customer to a whole lot of customers, right. And so now I've got to sort of develop a track record of success with each one of them, and then work through their building portfolios from start to finish in order to get to the success that they need.

David Karlsgodt 36:30

That's an interesting point, because it means instead of just pleasing the folks that sign, sign your check at the top of the food chain, you really have to act more like an internal business. And that's right, customer service and things like that. Yeah,

Jesse Warren 36:44

that's right. We're very customer focused here. You know, we all agree to work together. But in many ways, facilities management services could be replaced with services from the outside. So it's by far in our best interest to keep those customers pleased with what we do.

David Karlsgodt 37:01

Yeah, but but you're still with working within the bounds of the new chair of the mission of the university as well, rather than just outsourcing your entire energy system for precisely

Jesse Warren 37:09

right. And that gives us opportunities to engage with folks outside the University, the University of Virginia foundation is interested in our services, we may not be able to provide funding there, but if we can help our land holding arm make good decisions about energy and climate that's

David Karlsgodt 37:24

in everyone's best interest. Interesting. Yeah. So you're not limited by really narrow scope, you can expand that within what makes sense in the bigger picture of the university's goals. And that is,

Jesse Warren 37:34

the biggest thing that I love about my job is that we have the freedom and flexibility to identify what is the best path forward for the university, as opposed to being prescribed to a specific one?

David Karlsgodt 37:49

No, I really liked that point. I mean, as a small business owner, and entrepreneur, you know, appreciate the ideas of people being motivated to do good work and, you know, serve customers. And you know, that the essence of sort of American capitalism from that perspective, but I recognize, you know, it doesn't always give you the outcomes that you want. So it sounds like you have a really interesting hybrid for your job where you're within, you know, essentially a state agency, but operating like a business. That's right, but not, but not in a way that you're just cutting costs to the nth degree. That's, I think, where it's been abused over, you know, as as privatization and some of those trends that have gone on over the last couple of decades. That's it, it's not that it's something in between,

Jesse Warren 38:29

you know, I'm an energy engineer. And I've got four energy engineers on my team, I started out as one of those energy engineers and was eventually promoted over top of the group. For me, it's very important that we're out there making these kinds of improvements. And we have a professional reputation that we have to uphold. And that's what's been able to get us I feel into these spaces in these departments. If one customer sours on our work, I can guarantee you that many customers will sour.

David Karlsgodt 39:03

got us you have people holding your feet to the fire, but you've got, you know, the passion and mission driving you to make sure that you do that, which is a really powerful mix. Oh, that's great. Great. Yeah. You know, Andrea, we've, we've neglected you for a little while. But you're more you're less than the day to day of the maintenance aspects of this, I assume. But from a sustainability perspective, how does that fit in?

Andrea Trimble 39:26

Right, so you may set up his Board of Visitors set a greenhouse gas goal in 2011, and then followed it up with a reactive nitrogen goal in 2013. So UVA was the first university to set a nitrogen goal, and since that others have followed on and UVA has been a partner in nitrogen planning. So those were sort of our two foundational goals. And then in 2016, we launched our first five year plan, which included 23 goals and over 100 actions. So as we check towards those goals to forge plays a big role in the particularly the greenhouse gas goal, the nitrogen goal, and we've also signed on to that that our Buildings Challenge goal to reduce energy's intensity by 2020, below 2010 levels by 20%. So we've seen significant strides, particularly on the greenhouse gas side. In Progress, we've reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by about 19%, since 2009, despite very extensive growth, and a lot of that has been attributable to energy efficiency through Delta Force. So the program is a really important part of achieving our quantitative goals. And then Jesse spoke a little bit about how we engage the individuals within the buildings, we also have a strong engagement goals as part of the sustainability plan and all that awareness building as part of our approach to sustainability.

David Karlsgodt 40:49

Yeah, how does that all fit together? Are you it, you know, just talk me through the organizational structure, who's in charge of engagement is that part of the Delta Force program is sustainability over over the Delta Force program or the other way around or? So it fit together?

Andrea Trimble 41:04

Sure. Our office for sustainability has two sides, really. So we have about half the number of staff on each side. One side is focused on outreach, engagement communications, with across the university, Pan University. So we have a manager over that group, and communications person, several outreach people, green labs, a staff member. And then on Jesse side, he has energy engineers, the energy engineers work, some on outreach and engagement, but the dedicated programs are really on that reach engagement side. So we have a green workplace program for staff a green living program for housing, buildings, green labs program for lab spaces, and there's slightly different approaches, terms of outreach and awareness on each of those types of individuals or building types.

David Karlsgodt 41:50

Great, and how is that funded? Or is it all one big bucket or

Andrea Trimble 41:55

so they're essentially sort of two 3%. Very funding sources, I guess, that we're working with right now. One is just you described the revolving nature in savings from the first program. And that's what funds our engineering side, the outreach side is funded through a very small portion of the electricity rates are just you mentioned the delta between what comes into the substation, and what we charge the buildings, a small piece of that is office for sustainability. But a lot of that is other aspects of overhead type things. And then the third is when we launched our sustainability plan in 2016, we were allocated $3 million dollars from in central funding from the university, for the university committee on sustainability to manage so through that funding, we've been able to pilot a lot of projects, across our approach, have engaged or discover, so our engagement programs, our stewardship programs, which move us towards our quantitative goals, and then our discover programs, which are teaching and research and using the grounds of the learning.

David Karlsgodt 43:00

Okay, so you're but you're, you're getting a little bit of the money from some of the things that we've been talking about with the Delta Force program, but there's also central funding and did that come later or beginning? Or are they completely disconnected or

Andrea Trimble 43:14

they're pretty disconnected. So data for is pretty much funding that that side of the office, whereas the energy and utilities essentially report through operations and facilities is funding, the average engagement communication side of our office, including my position. And then the central funding came in 2016. Through sort of our governance structure, which is our university committee on sustainability, and they, when we work with them to allocate those funds through to individual projects, and initiatives that move us towards our goals.

David Karlsgodt 43:49

So Jesse, how how does Andrews team or this, you know, the sustainability aspect of the university? interact? From your perspective?

Jesse Warren 43:57

Yeah, so I mean, we all work as one big collaborative office. Many times we need things from the outreach engagement and communication side, and they need things from us to green Labs is sort of a perfect example of that, because neither of us would be successful in reducing the environmental impact of laboratories from an infrastructure and personal perspective, if we can only work on one half of that.

David Karlsgodt 44:21

Got it. So you're not just working to save energy, you've got a little broader mission than that.

Jesse Warren 44:27

I meet with a lot of people and a lot of people have varying motivations for what it is that they do uncomfortable if they just want to save money, but other people have more aspirational goals. And that's where we have sort of a variety of customers across the university. Some people are interested in good indoor air quality, and how do we manage climate as best we can others are interested in how do we squeeze a buck out of it? And once they've done that, hopefully, we can lead them further down the path.

David Karlsgodt 44:53

Great. Yeah, fair enough. Andrea, I think my next question goes to you. This is fairly wide open. But thinking about just where you are, what's unique about your sustainability work in the context of Charlottesville,

Andrea Trimble 45:07

I think there are a few different things at play, I think in terms of our position within Virginia. We're sort of centrally located in Virginia. And while we're starting to see the increasing impacts of climate change, and rainfall and heat and weather, weather related impacts, we don't have the imminent threat of sea level rise. But we do have a position as a University of Oxford University within the state to understand the impacts on our state. So there's a one of the ways that we translated that into action is we have a large environmental resilience institute that has a one of the key components is coastal resilience. So we have been tailoring our sustainability programs to what's not just the need, and the impacts in our immediate region, but also in our larger, larger state. Another aspect is, increasingly, and this isn't, this isn't unique to Charlottesville at all. But increasingly, as our programs have grown, we've seen much more deliberate, intensive conversations around equity, inclusion and race in relation to the environment, such as the environmental justice, impacts, and general diversity of perspective in our sustainability conversations. So sure, this video has been sort of a focus area, a lot of these equity issues and conversations but it's not, these conversations aren't unique, and these problems aren't unique to Charlottesville is something that every community really United States should be grappling with. So we've been in terms of sustainability really trying to understand how do we ensure that the decisions we make proactively or in reaction to problem are achieving the best outcomes for every type of individual that interacts with the NBA.

David Karlsgodt 47:08

So we don't just get to make Jesse's customers happy. We're thinking about the whole region and and the broader aspects of the work you're doing that make sense.

Jesse Warren 47:16

So an example of that would be how we're working through the climate action planning process with Albemarle county in Charlottesville. You know, Charlottesville is a smaller than Albemarle County, only about 40,000 people compared to about 100. But we're working sort of collaboratively collaboratively across all three entities, UVA, Charlottesville and Albemarle County, to at least have coordinated messaging around climate goals, and maybe in the future, some shared milestones.

David Karlsgodt 47:44

Yeah, that's interesting. I think we're seeing a lot more of that around the country of universities taking the lead on those kinds of conversations, because we see, I think, you know, not every university, but many universities have been doing this type of work for at least a decade now. Well, cities are still kind of catching up in a lot of ways. I mean, there are exceptions, some of the cities have lived for a lot longer, as well. But

Jesse Warren 48:06

yeah, I would say that here, we've been committed in our cities and counties have been committed to climate action for a long time. I'd say we're an active participant in that, because we certainly want to make sure that we're we have a seat at the table, but they have plenty of their own direction leadership to make sure this gets done.

David Karlsgodt 48:24

Right. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. What where do you see the overlap in the collaboration? Is it you know, the Regional Transportation type type issues? Or, you know, what are some examples of that? Because I'm, you know, they don't really care about the delta T of your chilled water system, for example, direction, right? I mean,

Jesse Warren 48:40

I would say the value that we bring is twofold. One, we have an experience in doing these kinds of action plans, right? We've got action plans for our greenhouse gas emissions. And now it's time to work with our communities to develop that to the other thing, place where we can really collaborate is on expertise around climate solutions. So in our office, we've got a lot of expertise around Solid Waste Management, composting, recycling, energy, efficiency, renewable energy. So we go out into the community, and we lead working groups or energy sector Task Force is related to how we manage those assets, or manage that infrastructure.

David Karlsgodt 49:17

Great. So you're truly being the educators on these topics. Because you've been doing this work internally, you've got, you've tried out all the different ways of recycling and the different signage, that kind of thing. And you're able to share that knowledge with the community.

Jesse Warren 49:30

That's right. And when you think about it, these are Community Solutions, right? If we have one way of recycling here at UVA, and a different way of recycling, and people get off grounds, they need to at least understand that if we can't coordinate those two pieces, and the same goes for energy infrastructure.

David Karlsgodt 49:46

Do you see that there are some issues that cities and counties are better suited to deal with that universities really aren't? I mean, like, I guess the example that comes to my mind would be Regional Transit issues, just you know, you don't control the retreats transit system. But beyond that, are there other things like that?

Jesse Warren 50:04

I think a lot of the collaboration, and leadership will come on things like renewable energy, because they have the opportunity to encourage things, loan program by downs, financial mechanisms, taxes, even, that can encourage people to make those kinds of decisions. You know, at UVA, we're really good at directly investing in infrastructure. But we don't really have that opportunity in the same way in the community.

David Karlsgodt 50:30

Yeah, you can't do you can't really deal with things like changing the mix of power coming into the substation, or things like that on your own right, precisely.

Jesse Warren 50:37

So we've got to work together. And are there places where the counties and cities are further along? Well, absolutely. They're better at working with their constituencies and helping us understand that because they're going to have to convince these people to do things that the university could mandate.

David Karlsgodt 50:53

All right, well, hopefully, we've covered the highlights of your Delta Force program. And I think I can say it's very, very impressive. I think many people listening to this will be envious of what you've been able to achieve. And, and you may have some people vying for your job, Jesse in particular, I think a lot of people that work in this space, wish they had the tools that you have at your command, I'm sure you got plenty of hard work. But, man, I know, it sounds like you're awesome, Jeremy, I

Jesse Warren 51:19

opine for a minute. We you bring up two points. The first is I'm part of the Delta Force team because of the cost recovery model. When I came to you, the A, I was worried that I was going to have to fill out a requisition form to do a project in the next budget year and things like that. And that told me that I wasn't going to have a big impact. But what I learned is things like the Delta Force model that allow our funding to revolve makes sure that our impact is significant, and its immediate. And I think there's others that are attracted to that. With that being said, we are currently hiring for an energy and sustainability engineer. So if somebody is interested in being part of our team, look on our UVA website, the jobs platform is called work day. And in there, you'll be able to search for energy and sustainability engineer.

David Karlsgodt 52:08

Got it, you're hiring. So you're not worried about somebody taking your job. You're just trying to fill out your team, but

Jesse Warren 52:13

I'm looking for the smartest and most capable person to come work for us who can take my job.

David Karlsgodt 52:19

All right, well, that's this is the now sponsor of our episode here is job posting. The other thing I was going to mention there, though, is that sounds like also, if there's an administrator out there that wants to set up a program like this, that is a key thing to attract folks like you, they get to do this great work. If they want to attract the dynamic thinkers you need it, they need to set up the systems in such a way that you can be successful. That's right. requisition forms being the lead on that for sure. Great. Okay, well, yeah, anything as we just wrap up, I mean, that's, that's a lesson learned right there. But other lessons learned you'd like to share with folks, as we kind of pulled the threads together here,

Jesse Warren 52:58

I've got to that I've Well, maybe three that I've learned from experience. The first is that technology changes really, really fast. So when you think you're going to get a really good deal on buying a bunch of lights for this building, and the Let's buy some extra lights for this building this building this building, so that we can get a price break. By the time you're finished doing that last building, the technology will have moved so much that you're going to want either a different product, or you're going to be paying significantly different prices for the products that you have. The another big takeaway for us is having a longer view of the building's themselves. There was a time when we were really looking at individual opportunities and saying, How can we fix this? And that meant we were chasing all of our big problems and all of our big energy hogs. But at some point, we kind of chilled out and realize that the answer isn't to get everything as fast as possible. The answer is to get every building on grounds at the time that's appropriate. So there was a building on grounds that had electric resistance heat. And so we were adamant that that needed to be created heat pump, and we got a heat pump put in and about the time that that system is going to achieve its payback, the building was demolished. So that didn't really represent the kinds of savings I want to give to the university, which are long, persistent savings over time,

David Karlsgodt 54:14

right? Yeah, hopefully that wasn't a big building.

Jesse Warren 54:17

Now, it was a little warehouse storage space. But again, it was a lesson.

David Karlsgodt 54:23

Andrea, what same question to you again, you were the one that brought this to my attention in the first place, which thank you very much for doing so this has been really fascinating talking with Jesse and this whole program, but like, what have you learned from your perspective?

Andrea Trimble 54:35

Jesse has hit on it a few times already. I think it's the stakeholder engagement piece being so important. We really focus on collaboration and our purchase. So I think it's really important that everyone who is involved in the project gets the proper recognition. And then I asked, I think that is important that the occupants understand the impact that the project has, and how they can continue to help achieve getting savings through day to day conservation.

David Karlsgodt 55:04

Very good, very good. Well, as I said before, and I will say, again, super impressive what you guys are doing here, using the expression, if if it exists, it's possible. I think your story helps maybe dispel a lot of myths that other organizations that you know, maybe have seen a program like this done on paper, or in theory in a spreadsheet somewhere but you know, really don't believe it's possible to do. But your story shows that it can be done indeed, any any last pitch any other job opportunities that he VA, we should be telling our listeners about her thank

Andrea Trimble 55:38

thanks so much for having us. We really appreciate it, we always are happy to share any of the tools and resources that we create. And we're always happy to talk to people. So if anyone is interested in talking through their own setup at their school, and what may be possible and what we've learned in more detail and how our program works, and more detail, we're always happy to do that. Always happy to share templates.

David Karlsgodt 56:03

That's great. And I'll be sure to include ways to get in touch with you and links to resources etc. in the show notes. Yep. Great, Jesse, any final thoughts?

Jesse Warren 56:14

Now I really appreciate y'all having us on the show and we look forward to maybe talking to you again.

David Karlsgodt 56:19

That's it for this episode. To learn more. You can always see the show notes at our website at Campus energy podcast. com. You can follow us on Twitter, we are at energy podcast. The show is a free service, but if you'd like to support the show, please consider leaving a rating or review on iTunes or just telling a friend about the show. As always, thanks for listening

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Episode 15: Landfill-gas flaring project at Central College of Pella, Iowa

Brian Campbell (left) Rob McKenna (right)

Brian Campbell (left)
Rob McKenna (right)

Guest: Brian Campbell
Director of Sustainability Education
Central College of Pella, Iowa

Special Guest and Co-host: Rob McKenna
Principal, Fovea, LLC

Host: Dave Karlsgodt
Principal, Fovea, LLC

In this episode you’ll hear an interview with Brian Campbell, Director of Sustainability Education at Central College in Pella Iowa. We discuss Central College’s recent climate action plan with a focus on a unique landfill-gas flaring project that came out of that planning effort. Rob McKenna, a principal at Fovea and the consultant who lead this climate action planning effort, joins both as guest and co-host.

Fovea would like to give a special shout out to Energy Strategies and MEP Associates who were our partners and collaborators on this project.

Resources:

Second Nature Carbon Commitment Signatory Distribution

During this podcast, Rob McKenna discusses how Central College with roughly 10,000 MTCO2e / year has a typical emissions profile among signatories to the Second Nature Carbon Commitment.

Episode 14: Solar carport and Energy Transition at Michigan State University

Wolfgang Bauer (left); Gary Farha (right);   Solar Carport Installation  at MSU (bottom)

Wolfgang Bauer (left); Gary Farha (right);
Solar Carport Installation at MSU (bottom)

Guests:
Wolfgang Bauer
University Distinguished Professor and Associate Vice President for Administrative Services
Michigan State University

Gary Farha
Founder, President and CEO
CustomerFirst Renewables

Host: Dave Karlsgodt, Principal, Fovea, LLC

The focus of this episode is a large, on-site solar carport installation that recently came online on MSU’s campus. At the time it came online, this was the largest carport solar installation in the United States.  As background, Wolfgang shares the rich history of the MSU energy system dating back to the 19th century. We discuss the role of MSU’s Energy Transition Plan as a catalyst for this project. This plan lays out aggressive goals for the use of renewable energy and the reduction of GHG emissions.  We talk through the decision-making process that led up to this project and end by discussing possible next steps in MSU’s energy transition.

Resources:

Episode 13: The Challenges and Opportunities of Aggressive Climate Action

The panel at CHESC 2018 (  Left to right)  Tyler Durchslag-Richardson, Fletcher Alexander, Lindsey Kalkbrenner, Eric Eberhardt, Dave Karlsgodt

The panel at CHESC 2018 (Left to right) Tyler Durchslag-Richardson, Fletcher Alexander, Lindsey Kalkbrenner, Eric Eberhardt, Dave Karlsgodt

Guests:
Eric Eberhardt
Director of Energy Services
Energy & Facilities Management Services
University of California, Office of the President
Lindsey Kalkbrenner
Director, Sustainability, University Operations
Director, Center for Sustainability
Santa Clara University
Fletcher Alexander
Sustainability Programs Manager, Institute for Sustainable Development
California State University, Chico
Tyler Durchslag-Richardson
Senior Analyst, Facilities Services and Integrated Planning
California Institute of Technology
Host: Dave Karlsgodt, Principal, Fovea, LLC

This episode was recorded live on July 10th at the 2018 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC) which took place on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dave Karlsgodt moderated the session: “The Challenges and Opportunities of Aggressive Climate Action.” Panelists from a cross-section of California institutions answered questions about their climate action efforts.  You’ll hear both success stories from these leading institutions, but also some honest discussion on where they have more work to do. Topics include the nature of their climate action strategies, making the business case for sustainable practices, the dual role of higher ed. to lead and to educate, carbon neutrality, 100% renewable energy and more.  Audience members bring up some challenging questions including how to consider equity, social justice, and the stratification of resources to address these challenges.  The discussion includes a combination of inspiring success stories and honest self-reflection from sustainability professionals working in the trenches.

Resources: