New thermostat setpoint policy rolls out

Sustainability initiative designed for comfort, energy savings

As part of its ongoing sustainability effort, Washington University has adopted a new thermostat setpoint policy designed to keep students, faculty and staff more comfortable while saving energy.

It’s a common complaint in office buildings across the country: Once summer hits and air conditioners crank up, many employees find themselves freezing, often stashing extra sweaters or blankets at work in an effort to stay warm inside while temperatures skyrocket outside.

Washington University in St. Louis’ Office of Sustainability is partnering with the Danforth Campus Facilities Planning and Management to roll out a new thermostat setpoint policy, designed to take the chill out of campus office temperatures during the summer.

“The intention is to have a policy that makes people more comfortable within their spaces, conserves energy, and thereby reduces operating costs and also reduces carbon emissions for the university,” said Phil Valko, assistant vice chancellor for sustainability.

A study conducted in the Netherlands two years ago found that most office buildings set temperatures on an antiquated formula based on the metabolic rates of men, overcooling many workers and wasting energy in the process. Washington University’s new plan will help on both counts: keeping most employees more comfortable while reducing the school’s carbon footprint. It’s estimated the change will save $200,000-$300,000 in energy costs per year.

“We also estimate that the energy savings will account for about 5 to 8 percent of our total carbon reduction goal, so it’s a significant slice of our carbon reduction strategy,” Valko said. “In terms of equivalencies, that amount of carbon reduction is akin to taking 500 to 850 cars off the road permanently.”

The Office of Sustainability is working with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning services team and school liaisons to implement the change, which calls for a setpoint of 73-76 degrees during the warmer months and 69-72 degrees in the cooler months. The plan was piloted at Hillman Hall late last year, where workers responded enthusiastically.

In the first phase of the setpoint rollout currently underway, 12 buildings are included. Based on feedback, the second phase could begin as soon as late summer and incorporate most of the rest of the Danforth Campus.

“This might mean adjustments for some people on campus,” Valko said. “We really hope people are patient, give feedback and work with us through the transition.”

To learn more about the new setpoint policy, visit the Facilities Planning and Management website.

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