Walter Simpson is energy officer at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, and can be reached at He is a three-time recipient of APPA's Rex Dillow Award for Outstanding Article.

The University at Buffalo, State University of New York (UB), continues to take steps to strengthen its campus energy and environmental stewardship programs. Recent developments include the completion of the university’s green building guidelines and initiation of a new energy conservation awareness program.

Two years in the making, the University at Buffalo has just published its UB High Performance Building Guidelines. This 150-page manual is intended to advance UB’s commitment to the principles of green design. Thus far, UB has one LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building—a community center in a new campus apartment complex. However, a new UB bioinformatics science building may qualify for LEED silver.

New York Governor’s Executive Order 111 requires state agencies, including all 60 State University of New York (SUNY) campuses, to follow the principles of green design in all new construction. While the Executive Order does not require state agencies to apply for and obtain LEED certification as granted by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Order does require these agencies to satisfy themselves and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) that designs for new construction and major renovation comply with all LEED prerequisites and achieve enough LEED points to meet the LEED bronze rating threshold. UB facilities managers would eventually like to see a LEED gold or platinum building on at least one of UB’s two campuses. The new UB guidelines provide strategies for getting there.

The UB High Performance Building Guidelines is a comprehensive document that addresses both the green design process in a college and university setting and the technical strategies necessary to apply the principles of green design to new campus construction and renovation projects. The manual is organized in a way to encourage genuine integrative, holistic sustainable design and not just what might be called “the LEED checklist approach” (where green design is a secondary priority or an afterthought, and a minimal effort is made to collect just enough LEED points to certify a building).

The guidelines are the result of a collaborative effort between UB, the NY State University Construction Fund, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, and expert consultants Hillary Brown (New Civic Works) and Steven Campbell (Phoenix Design). Both consultants were instrumental in preparing New York City’s High Performance Building Guidelines. The UB project was co-funded by NYSERDA.

UB’s new energy conservation awareness program is called “You Have the Power.” Its inspiration came when the university community proved it did have the power to do some serious operational energy conservation when called upon to do so during an emergency load reduction incident.

One hot August day in 2003, a couple of days after a big blackout in the Northeast U.S. and eastern Canada, the University at Buffalo was quick to respond to an emergency request from the regional grid to cut back its electricity use.

Facilities staff took steps across UB’s two campuses to turn off equipment and lights that were not absolutely necessary. Those steps produced documented savings of over $11,000 in energy costs in a single day—without adversely impacting the academic and research missions of the university or reducing productivity.

That got university administrators and facilities managers thinking. Light bulbs started to go on—or rather off!—as we realized that some fraction of those savings could be achieved on a daily ongoing basis if the entire university community was invited and empowered to join the effort.

To accomplish this, the “You Have the Power” energy conservation awareness campaign was created by the UB Green Office, the environmental advocacy office within UB’s University Facilities department. Symbolized by a simple light switch turned to the OFF position, the campaign provides numerous energy saving tips so members of the university community can easily “turn it off.”

Using posters, lobby signs that show each building’s annual energy use, a website (, and brochures—all with the light switch motif—the campaign is aimed at motivating faculty, staff, and students to save energy at UB.

Suggestions in campaign materials run the gamut from enabling “sleep modes” on computers to eliminating decorative table lamps, buying the most energy-efficient equipment, and running laboratory fume hoods efficiently.

This year rising natural gas and electricity prices are adversely impacting UB’s annual energy bills, which already approach $20 million annually. In that context, UB facilities staff estimate that an energy awareness program like “You Have the Power” could save $500,000 to $1 million a year and go a long way to averting a utilities’ budget shortfall.

The “You Have the Power” website also features a section entitled “Green Partners,” which describes projects voluntarily undertaken by schools and departments on the UB campus to reduce UB’s environmental footprint. These range from using 100 percent post-consumer content recycled paper to exploring the use of energy-efficient vending machines on campus. The website also has special sections on energy facts— from local to global—and on home energy conservation.

The University at Buffalo has had a longstanding commitment to energy conservation. Projects completed to date are estimated to be achieving in excess of $9 million in annual savings.

In addition to conservation and efficiency, UB is shifting to cleaner forms of energy. In 2003, UB became the largest purchaser of wind energy in New York State. During 2004, UB purchased 12 million kilowatt hours of wind generated electricity from the Fenner Wind Farm near Syracuse, New York. UB also has plans for on-site renewable energy generation.

A 100-kilowatt photovoltaic array is scheduled to be installed on one of UB’s classroom buildings in the fall of 2005.