School launches energy-awareness drive

How much money could the School of Medicine save annually if everyone turned off lights and equipment when not in use?

The answer: about $700,000. With simple changes like this one, employees can help the School of Medicine reach its goal to save more than $1.5 million a year in energy costs.

The medical school has already significantly reduced energy use despite a 70 percent increase in campus size since the early 1990s, but there are more opportunities for savings, said Jim Stueber, director of facilities engineering.

“With Dean Shapiro’s help, we’ve implemented many energy conservation projects and have updated many older systems, including updating heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems and replacing inefficient production equipment with more efficient and reliable models,” Stueber said. “Our total energy use has dropped 8.1 percent since 1992 despite the campus growth, but we’re still spending about $17 million this year on energy.

“We’ve grabbed all of the low-hanging fruit and will continue to build efficient buildings, find energy-conservation projects and operate as efficiently as possible, but the only way we can make an impact on the future is with the help of everyone on campus,” Stueber said.

To get everyone involved, the medical school has launched an Energy Awareness Committee, a grassroots effort involving a representative from all departments. Each department has been charged with reducing energy use in their office, conference and lab areas. In addition, there are four subcommittees taking a closer look at laboratories, personal computers, data centers and computer rooms and raising public awareness.

Since the initiative began this spring, many departments have launched internal campaigns to reduce energy. Jerry Pinkner, research lab manager in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and head of the lab subcommittee, has been encouraging those in his department to turn off high-energy-using equipment when not in use.

The lab subcommittee is distributing watt-hour meters, devices that measure and record the electric power flowing through a circuit, to various labs at the school. Purchased by the Facilities Management Department, the meters also show how much money can be saved annually by turning equipment off when not in use.

In addition, the Department of Pediatrics staff evaluated lighting in its office areas on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors of the Northwest Tower and determined that they could remove the center bulb from overhead light fixtures without impacting task lighting.

The Department of Molecular Microbiology also has made changes to lighting in its office, lab and research areas. Those small changes will save $3,500 a year in each of those departments, Steuber said.

“We want people to remember that every person at the medical school can have a positive impact on the school’s finances and the environment by making a personal choice to be more responsible with energy use,” Stueber said.

To join the energy-savings initiative, talk to your department representative or business manager.

In addition, Facilities Management offers tips to save energy in the office, lab and home and an Energy Savings Recommendation Form for employees to suggest ways that the medical school can reduce energy. Those and other energy-saving resources can be found at