Episode_18 University of Virginia - Delta Force.mp3
8:00PM May 24, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It's great to be here. Thank you for having me. Thanks, Dave.
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?
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
thanks, Jesse, over to you.
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.
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?
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.
Tell me a little bit about the scale of savings you're talking about.
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,
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Basically, you want to suck more of the cold out. Is that a way to think about it?
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.
Okay, great. Well, I think you mentioned this, but what was the source of that original funding? Can you remind me?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Got it. Okay, so you're treating these like long term working assets, rather than like a disposable building, essentially. Right?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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
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 a first step
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.
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.
Yes, and the architects are appreciative that you didn't try. Right.
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.
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 timeframe. 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.
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 pushback 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.
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.
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.
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.
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? Andrea, you want this one?
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 LEED 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 UVA 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 building standards 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.
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 ASHRAE or something just as a standard. But is that is that part of why are you been able to do that as part of
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.
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
ASHRAE 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?
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.
Yeah, whatever one polls the best, I guess, right?
Depending on who you're talking to, at the moment.
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,
I have experienced getting customers 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.
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,
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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,
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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,
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?
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,
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Great, and how is that funded? Or is it all one big bucket or
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.
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
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.
So Jesse, how how does Andrea's team or this, you know, the sustainability aspect of the university? interact? From your perspective?
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.
Got it. So you're not just working to save energy, you've got a little broader mission than that.
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.
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,
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 UVA.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
I'm looking for the smartest and most capable person to come work for us who can take my job.
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,
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,
right? Yeah, hopefully that wasn't a big building.
Now, it was a little warehouse storage space. But again, it was a lesson.
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?
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.
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
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.
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?
Now I really appreciate y'all having us on the show and we look forward to maybe talking to you again.
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 @energypodcast. 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