Campus & Community

Efficiency program saves money, energy

2 min read

Rapid payback makes efficiency make sense

An energy-efficiency program in Harvard-managed buildings has University real estate managers smiling at savings of more than $700,000 annually.
Larry McNeil, senior facilities engineer with Harvard Real Estate Services’ University and Commercial Operations Management, said the efficiency program is in its fourth year and has amassed savings that are hard to ignore.

The project, which has added insulation, installed new motors, variable speed drives, and controls, upgraded lighting, and improved boilers for heating and chillers for air conditioning, has cost the University $1.7 million so far. The improvements are expected to save $741,559 per year. Add to that an additional $613,646 in rebates from utility companies aimed to encourage efficiency programs, and the improvements will pay for themselves in less than two years, McNeil said.

“We can’t control the cost of utilities, but we can control the use of utilities,” McNeil said.

The University and Commercial Operations Management effort is part of a larger effort across the University aimed at taking advantage of rebates offered by utility companies to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

University and Commercial Operations oversees 80 buildings, largely office and commercial space, such as Holyoke Center and 1033 Massachusetts Ave., which houses the Harvard University Policy Department. It also manages buildings as diverse as the president’s house, Wadsworth House, the Faculty Club, and the Memorial Church.

Though the program has already been successful, efficiency programs are continuing on other properties managed by the office. Upgrades can make a considerable difference. New control systems allow managers greater control over heating and cooling, allowing the temperature to be reduced in evenings and weekends and then warmed again during work hours when the building is occupied.

New heating systems can also make a dramatic difference. A building heating system installed in the early 1980s would run at between 78 and 81 percent efficiency, meaning that percentage is actually converted into heat, rather than lost through machinery and pipes. A similar heating system today runs at between 92 percent and 98 percent efficiency, meaning almost all the gas purchased to generate heat actually is used to heat the building.

McNeil said that though the changes weren’t motivated specifically to improve Harvard’s environmental performance, the energy efficiency they’ve produced has nonetheless made Harvard a bit greener.