UC Santa Barbara

April 28th - May 1st, 2021: Climate Justice Symposium for Transforming Education; July 2021 CHESC

Past Award Winners

The CA Higher Education Sustainability Conference wants to congratulate the 2015 Best Practice Award Winners Please see below for the announcement letters from the University of California and California State University Systems.

Overall Sustainable Design

CSU Long Beach, LA234 Renovation Project

The renovation of Liberal Arts 234’s buildings and site address water and energy efficiency while improving seismic safety and classroom space. The design factored in building envelope improvements with HVAC upgrades to provided better thermal comfort and reduced cooling demand. All lighting fixtures were replaced with LEDs with integrated smart controls. Combined, these strategies resulted in the project performing an estimated 33% better in energy use compared to a Title 24 baseline. The award committee was also impressed with the project’s 52% reduction in irrigation water use, which was achieved by removing significant areas of turf.

UC Berkeley, New Campbell Hall

Campbell Hall sits facing one of UC Berkeley’s most significant historical plazas. The design lexicon for the new building is at once respectful of the neighboring historic structures and also reflective of the university’s mission for student-faculty interaction and sustainable design. The committee appreciated how the building process showcased best practices with respect to user engagement during design and move in, including  education regarding building features as well as a commitment to conduct a user survey six months post occupancy. The results of the survey will be provided to facilities along with a corrective action plan for any concerns it may raise.

Honorable Mention: UC San Diego, Marine Ecosystem Sensing, Observation and Modeling building

The Marine Ecosystem Sensing, Observation and Modeling building at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is the first certified LEED Platinum laboratory building at UCSD. The building combines research and education in marine ecosystems, climate variability, and marine ecosystem forecasting. The design leverages the mild San Diego climate by utilizing natural ventilation and passive heating in non-lab spaces as well as exposed thermal mass to reduce energy used for thermal comfort. In addition, FSC certified exterior wood slats allow for extensive daylight and views while limiting solar heat gain. The building also includes a 61 kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic system.

HVAC Design/Retrofit

San Jose State, San Jose State University Chiller Plant Improvements

The chiller plant retrofit project addressed the anticipated load growth on campus as well as increased the operational efficiency of the plant. The major measures that were implemented in this retrofit included replacement of the electric chillers with new variable speed versions, conversion of the primary chilled water pumping from constant to variable flow, modification of the piping to improve efficiency, optimization of the sequence of operations, and a new controls system. These changes add up to an average annual saving of almost $320,000.

Honorable Mention: CSU Long Beach, Molecular Life Science and Chemistry Lab HVAC Controls

Retrofit Project

The retrofit and overhaul of the existing Molecular Life Science and Chemistry Lab HVAC control system enhanced lab safety, improved building comfort, and captured energy savings while minimizing the impact on building occupants. The installation of a new monitoring and controls system enables setbacks on air change rates based on occupancy as well as active sampling of air within each of the 54 labs. The retrofit was completed in less than nine months without any disruption or complaints from occupants and energy cost savings are estimated at more than $125,000 annually.

Lighting/Design Retrofit

CSU Dominguez Hills, Honeycomb Ceiling

Representing a different architectural era, honeycomb concrete structures are fixtures of many California campuses. Their geometry makes them particularly challenging for lighting, given that much of the useful light gets lost in the flanges of the honeycomb. CSU Dominguez Hills tackled this issue by collaboratively developing an LED fixture that could be retrofitted into this type of structure. Facilities worked with a local manufacture to develop a prototype and then with students to assess fixture and energy savings. The project replaced 441 existing fluorescent fixtures with 179 LED fixtures, saving over 100,000 kWh annually.

UC Irvine, Student Center Interior Lighting Upgrade

The UCI Student Center is a 400,000 SF facility that serves as the main hub for the campus community. There are a variety of spaces including a bookstore, eating facilities, ballrooms, and offices. The project addressed all interior lighting, replacing 3,200 fluorescent fixtures with LEDs and dimming controls. Results include energy savings of more than 970,000 kWh and over $125,000 in energy costs as well as improved color rendering, lighting consistency, and brightness.

Waste Reduction

CSU Northridge, Integrating waste diversion and organic gardening into a learning opportunity

A coordinated effort between the Institute for Sustainability and CSUN dining services resulted in diverting all pre-consumer waste from campus dining areas and coffee shops to go to composting and organic gardening. Closing the loop between these previously independent activities provides cost savings to the university, advances a zero-waste agenda, and fosters a culture of sustainability among the University community. The program provides a facility where the community can learn principles of sustainability and engage in practical efforts to implement changes. It also provides work experience for students employed by the Institute to run the compost and food garden operations.

UC Santa Barbara, Optimizing Waste Management Services Through Stakeholder Engagement

A pilot custodial staff engagement program developed by UCSB improved waste management practices and decreased the workload required from custodial staff to service the indoor waste infrastructure. Facilities managers walked 10 buildings on campus with custodial staff to identify underutilized and outdated containers as well as locations where new containers and signage were needed. Waste collection practices were improved through a collaborative approach to understanding the needs of custodial staff, resulting in reduced contamination of recyclables, use of fewer bin liners, and less time required to service receptacles. The program also fostered feedback amongst custodial staff and management.

Honorable Mention: UC Davis, Gravel Washing/Recycling System

The gravel that lines the pens at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis used to be thrown out after use, accounting for roughly 25% of campus waste. While many options had been studied through the years, it took a new employee’s innovative concept of using recycled water from the wastewater treatment plant, a cement mixer, and gold mining equipment to effectively clean the gravel for reuse. This single project has increased the campus diversion rate from 66% to 76% and the net costs to run the system, including the amortized system cost, are lower than landfill disposal.

Sustainable Food Service

San Diego State University, Dining Certified Green Restaurant® Excellence

SDSU Dining has systematically implemented sustainable operational practices across each of its 33 foodservice locations to earn Green Restaurant certification on individual restaurants, catering, residential dining, centralized production, concessions, the Faculty/Staff Club, and even convenience stores. Building level actions included installing photovoltaic panels, retrofitting lighting, and improving water efficiency. Operational changes included expanding recycling and composting, switching to environmentally preferable products, and collecting used cooking oil for biofuel production. The food itself is also more sustainable, with vegetarian options available at all locations and local and organic products used as much as possible.

UC Davis, Aggie Grown – Harnessing the Hyper-Local

The UC Davis Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Research Facility is home to a 100-year study comparing growing methods of wheat and tomatoes. In 2011, students working with Russell Ranch and Dining Services saw an opportunity to connect the thousands of pounds of tomatoes and wheat produced each year to campus food services. Since then, students and staff have worked to develop a campus based food system supply chain. From production planning and price setting, to navigating campus regulations, recipe development and student engagement, Russell Ranch provides an example of maximizing educational opportunities associated with efforts to serve sustainably-sourced food.


CSU Los Angeles, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility

Opened May 2014, the research and fueling hydrogen station at Cal State L.A. is the largest such facility on any university campus in the United States. The station is capable of using renewable sources such as solar and wind power for hydrogen production via electrolysis. Hydrogen powers zero-emissions fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) actively serving motorists in Los Angeles and Southern California. The hydrogen facility provides key research data on fueling performance and station operations to the U.S. Department of Energy and National Laboratories, as well as to state agencies such as the California Energy Commission and California Air Resources Board.

Water Efficiency/Site Water Quality

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Drought Response

Cal Poly convened a Drought Planning Group consisting of a broad base of campus stakeholders. The group conducted a comprehensive investment grade audit of water conservation opportunities in both buildings and landscape and developed a Drought Plan identifying high priority projects and setting a goal of reducing water use by10% by 2016. Immediate measures included installing low flow fixtures, replacing dining equipment, reducing cooling tower blowdown, and improving landscape irrigation efficiency. With a payback of less than a year, these measures save 39 million gallons annually and helped the campus achieve their 2016 goal a year early.

Honorable Mention: CSU Long Beach, Water Action Plan Projects

In 2014, CSULB developed a campus Water Action Plan to reduce overall water consumption as a response to the California drought emergency. As part of the plan, a series of water conservation projects were identified, funded, and implemented to make an immediate impact. These projects represent the first of a series of phases that will be implemented over the next 3 years. Phase One projects included fixture and equipment replacements and are anticipated to save more than 20 million gallons annually.

UC Santa Cruz, UCSC Drought Planning

This project highlights the effectiveness of collaborative relationships in meeting seemingly impossible goals. When the City of Santa Cruz mandated a 25% curtailment of water usage due to extreme drought, UC Santa Cruz was prepared with ten years of drought planning already in practice. Due to the preparation of the campus, the collaboration between the University and City of Santa Cruz, and the effective execution of a drought plan, the campus was able to successfully meet this demanding target. Water efficiency projects, web based water management, and extensive campus engagement resulted in 27.8 million gallons being saved in eight months.

Honorable Mention: UC Los Angeles, Campus High-Purity Water Management

Prior to bringing high-purity water management in house, UCLA annually used 24 million gallons of water to produce 7 million gallons of high-purity water and spent $400,000 in preventive maintenance services. UCLA Utilities Department of Facilities Management proposed a strategy to shift the preventive maintenance services to in-house mechanics backed by an independent water consultant to save water through improved maintenance practices, improve documentation that water quality standards were being achieved, and reduce preventive maintenance cost through process optimization and standardization. This strategy reduces water waste by 40% and saves $168,000 per year in combined water and maintenance costs.

Student Energy Efficiency

CSU Chico, Wildcat Sustainability Showdown/Campus Conservation Nationals

The Wildcat Sustainability Showdown is CSU Chico’s answer to the nationally coordinated energy conservation program Campus Conservation Nationals. For the third consecutive year, the two week competition between residences resulted in significant energy savings and increased awareness about individual impacts on energy use. Energy savings have improved consistently each year and CSUC has regularly topped the competition rankings in California and Nationally. Over the three years, campus staff and student representatives have engaged more than 1,200 student residents in the comprehensive education campaign.

UC Berkeley, LED Microscope Retrofits

At UC Berkeley there are 110 different university-endorsed research units, many of which include microscopes. Most microscopes are lit by a high-intensity discharge (HID) metal halide bulbs, which have many disadvantages in terms of energy use, lifespan, and research safety. The LED Microscope Lighting Retrofit Project alleviated a large part of these inefficiencies by replacing metal halides with thermally stable and efficient LED lamps. In addition to energy, maintenance, and safety improvements, the student led project had the benefit of engaging researchers in a conversation about sustainability in laboratories.

Student Sustainability

CSU Fullerton, Campus Wide Sink Audit & Aerator Retrofit

In an effort to educate about water use and identify water saving opportunities, the Alliance to Save Energy PowerSave Campus interns at CSU Fullerton worked with facilities staff to audit every sink on campus. Students measured flow rates and catalogued 543 sinks in 17 different buildings to determine which could be replaced with 0.5 GPM aerators. The project quickly and efficiently saved 1.8 million gallons and provided an important learning opportunity for students and staff. It is an excellent example of how students can work with facilities to accomplish high-impact projects that facilities staff would otherwise not have time to do.

UC Los Angeles, Sustainable Living Community

UCLA’s Sustainable Living Community gives a deep sustainability experience to a small group of students, and provides an education and outreach tool to show how the rest of the 12,000 on-campus residents can live more sustainably in their everyday life. The co-curricular living and learning environment brings together students with interests in sustainability to participate in specially designed programs that cater to their academic, social, and personal needs. This creates a living-learning environment that facilitates the development of sustainability leaders.

Monitoring-Based Commissioning

San Diego State University, Arts and Letters Building

The Arts and Letters Building at SDSU combined commissioning and retrofit project included revision of air handler and fan coil schedules, adjustment of supply air temperature reset, modification of chilled water and hot water pump sequences, implementation of static pressure reset for fan control, and optimization of economizer control as well as addition of CO2 sensors for demand-controlled ventilation in lecture halls. Measured energy savings include 21% of electricity use, 25% of chilled water use, and 55% of steam use. A systems manual and operations and maintenance plan were created to complement staff training intended to help achieve persistent savings.

UC Santa Barbara, Chilled Water Loop Optimization

The Chilled Water Loop Optimization project at UCSB connects chiller plants in eight buildings; totaling 5,700 tons of capacity and serving 3 million gross square feet of floor area, a large fraction of which is laboratories.  The project increased the accuracy of chilled water energy measurements and system analysis, which enables more optimal selection and staging of chillers and peripheral equipment. This resulted in a measured decrease of 31% in the total energy used and a decrease of 21% in peak electric demand for production and distribution of chilled water.

Sustainability Innovations

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Creative Energy Project Finance

Campuses face similar challenges of growing deferred maintenance backlogs and limited access to capital for energy conservation projects. Low/zero interest loan programs offer a solution to this problem. Cal Poly SLO utilized PG&E’s On Bill Finance program in conjunction with a low interest loan from the California Energy Commission to implement $4 million in energy efficiency projects, which will result in annual savings of $282,000 in utility costs and $21,000 in maintenance. This project significantly improves the quality of campus learning and working environments, achieves substantial utility and maintenance savings, and impressively reduces campus greenhouse gas emissions.

UC Santa Barbara, Public Relations Campaign

The goal of UCSB’s Public Relations Campaign is to increase visibility and education of internal and external stakeholders about the University’s achievements in sustainability and its goals for the future. The campaign is also designed to encourage behavioral changes and collaboration between UCSB Sustainability and the broader community. Last year, the multi-media campaign focused on drought and water issues and included outreach to the university and Santa Barbara communities with strategies such as informative posters, public bus ads, social media posts, movie trailer videos, and a public event and lecture series.

Sustainability in Academics

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Sustainable Environments Minor

The Sustainable Environments minor offers students in any major an opportunity to shape their own education informed by principles of sustainable environmental design with global, regional, and local perspectives. The minor includes a required two-quarter, two-course, team-taught interdisciplinary sequence and completing courses selected from a variety of departments in almost every college. The committee appreciated the program’s long-standing history of success as a model of high-impact curricular engagement that offers students real-world experience based on lessons learned in the classroom. To date over 1,400 students have graduated with the Sustainable Environments minor, becoming influential sustainability leaders in their fields.

UC Los Angeles, Education for Sustainable Living Program

The Education for Sustainable Living Program enrolls over 100 students each year from more than 30 different majors. Each fall, students attend a Speaker and Film Series and in winter and spring, students partner with campus stakeholders in Action Research Teams (ART). ARTs research and tackle UCLA’s sustainability challenges, specifically in recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, purchasing, food systems, and facilities. As of 2014, over 240 students have been engaged, completing 40,000 hours with 46 campus stakeholders. As such, the committee valued the program’s ability to transcend disciplinary boundaries and connect students with real life projects on their own campus.