Office of Sustainability introduces new thermostat set point policy

Kathleen White | Contributing Reporter

Washington University’s Office of Sustainability instituted a new thermostat set point policy designed to increase occupant comfort, energy savings and carbon reductions this summer.

Piloted in both Hillman and Brookings Halls last year, the policy calls for a set point of 73-76 degrees during the warmer months and 69-72 degrees in the cooler months. The Office of Sustainability worked closely with Heating, Venting and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) services to implement the change in 12 buildings around campus.

The set point was also introduced in common and shared spaces, private offices and Residential Life spaces, allowing the Office of Sustainability to address several issues regarding both the environment and the University.

The University will save between $200,000 and $300,000 a year in energy savings as a result of the thermostat changes. In terms of carbon reduction, this is the equivalent of taking 500-850 cars off the road and meets 5 to 8 percent of the University’s 2020 carbon reduction goal.

“From the sustainability perspective, carbon reduction is a really key driver, and from an overall university perspective, cost savings is really important,” Associate Vice Chancellor of Sustainability Phil Valko said. “Anything that we can do to reduce the cost of our operations allows those resources to be reallocated to a range of different things.”

Junior Peter Koulogeorge—who serves as president of Green Action, a Washington University environmental organization—said he is impressed by the University’s efforts to increase sustainability.

“I think it’s really great for the administration to tackle issues of climate through any mechanisms that they can,” Koulogeorge said.

Occupant comfort was an additional factor in introducing the new set point policy. Previously, using dating from extensive studies performed by the American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Office of Sustainability and HVAC found that 45 percent of spaces were uncomfortably cool.

The Office of Sustainability has received positive feedback for its new system but also welcomes vocalization of any discomfort as the office looks to expand the policy.

“[People] say they’re more comfortable, particularly in the summertime,” Valko said. “As we’re rolling out this next phase of the policy, that feedback from the Washington University community is really critical. Experience of discomfort is really key feedback so that we can fine tune the system.”

In addition to the thermostat policy implementation, the Office of Sustainability changed to 1.75 gallons per minute showerheads in all ResLife areas over the summer in order to compensate for older buildings with lower water pressure, according to Valko. The showerhead project has been a success for the Office of Sustainability and is estimated to elimate about 15 percent of total water usage on the South 40.

“This showerhead project saved the potable water cost, sewage cost and the natural gas for heating. Our estimate was that it would pay for itself within 4 and 6 months—so a really short pay back,” Valko said.