When the Virginia Tech Office of Energy Management conducted an energy benchmarking analysis of buildings on the main Blacksburg campus in 2015-16, it discovered just 50 buildings accounted for over 70 percent of overall university energy costs.

That is only 35 percent of all buildings on campus.

This discovery was the catalyst for the Five-Year Energy Action Plan, a comprehensive blueprint to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs within five years in the 50 most energy-intensive, “energy hog” buildings.

Managed by the Office of Energy Management within the Facilities Department, the Energy Action Plan combines energy data analysis with a range of retrofitting projects to achieve significant energy cost reductions. Since 2016, three phases of the Five-Year Energy Action Plan have been implemented, with 10 new energy-intensive buildings incorporated into each phase.

Under the Energy Action Plan and its first three phases, the university has already reduced its carbon emissions by about 15,000 tons per year and saved over $2 million in energy costs; full integration of the plan is expected to yield more than $6 million in overall energy cost savings.

Optimizing energy usage with data

Using data to guide decisions and achieve energy efficiency at scale is at the core of the Energy Action Plan. The Office of Energy Management utilizes a central energy management platform to monitor energy usage in real-time. Ten new buildings are added to the platform during each project phase.

Through newly installed smart meter and sub-meter infrastructure and ongoing energy audits in the field, energy data is collected in the platform. Practitioners can then identify energy consumption patterns to optimize lighting, ventilation, heating, and air based on demand.

Data visualization can also help detect irregular spikes in energy usage. Coupled with thermal imaging, this data can help direct repairs in specific fault areas.

Addressing operational inefficiencies

Under the Energy Action Plan, ongoing retrofitting projects help to improve energy efficiency in energy hog buildings. Retrofitting projects implemented under the plan so far include LED lighting replacement, smart meter and sub-meter installation, building automation improvements, insulation upgrades, HVAC upgrades, and more.

Addressing energy inefficiencies in laboratories, large-scale energy usage contributors on campus, are also included under the Energy Action Plan.

Phase 4: Looking to the future of energy efficiency on campus

More than $3.5 million in funding approved in October 2018 will help propel the Energy Action Plan into its fourth phase and deepen the university’s energy conservation efforts. Phase 4 looks to the future of energy efficiency by diversifying the university’s energy portfolio with a new solar project. In addition, the retrofitting and energy accounting projects under Phase 4 will help ensure the longevity of mechanical and lighting systems for years to come.

Proposed projects under Phase 4 (2018-19) include:

Implementation of energy retrofit projects identified in Phase 3: LED lighting overhaul, lab ventilation optimization, steam pipe insulation, and building envelope improvements.

  • Integration of 10 additional energy-intensive buildings into energy management platform.
  • Implementation of rooftop solar project (one building).

“The continued progress of the Five-Year Energy Action Plan is a reflection of the strong headway Virginia Tech has made in its energy reduction and sustainability efforts,” said Ruben Avagyan, campus energy manager. “The ongoing retrofitting projects, paired with behavioral education and community engagement through the Office of Sustainability, will help make an enduring impact on the Blacksburg campus for years to come.”

The Five-Year Energy Action Plan supports the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment, which serves as a cornerstone for guiding the university toward a greener, more sustainable future. It touches on all aspects of university sustainability and energy efficiency, including campus operations, facilities, curriculum, and research.

While the Energy Action Plan addresses energy efficiency in existing buildings, the Climate Action Commitment ensures all new construction and renovation projects meet Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards. LEED is the most widely used green building rating system and provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.

Please click here to learn more about the Five-Year Energy Action Plan and each of its phases.

For specific questions on the Five-Year Energy Action Plan, please contact the Office of Energy Management at 540-231-6348.

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