Best Practices In Sustainability: Progress Report: University of California Green Building and Clean Energy Efforts

Nov. 9, 2005

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The vast University of California (UC) system this year released an annual report on the progress of its implementation of green building and clean energy policies for all proposed and to-be-renovated buildings on its campuses. The policy covers all 10 campuses in the UC system, including the new Merced campus that opened this fall.

Mandated by the regents in July 2003, the university’s policy on green building design and clean energy standards was issued in June 2004. The first-year report’s policy implementation progress table is available at (click here).

According to the university’s Office of the President, projects approved after July 2004 include nine new projects approved by the UC Board of Regents in November 2004 as part of the state-funded 2005-06 capital improvements budget. Many projects with budgets approved before 2004-05 have also incorporated sustainable features to comply with the policy goals.

Since the program’s inception, UC campuses have also completed green building application guidelines, developed preliminary plans to implement a clean energy standard, and arranged with utility companies to provide documentation and financial incentives for energy efficiency in new construction.

The university also has received several large grants to assist with implementation as well as recognition from federal officials for the university’s leadership in this area.

Highlights of the program’s first year include:

  • Energy efficiency. A partnership with utility companies and the 23-campus California State University (CSU) system provides $15 million - obtained from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), in part due to UC’s far-reaching clean energy standard - to implement energy-efficiency projects at UC and CSU campuses. A second CPUC grant provides $2.5 million to manage pilot student energy conservation programs on the UC Berkeley, Santa Barbara, and San Diego campuses. UC and CSU have also received $3 million from the California Energy Commission to demonstrate new emerging energy technologies.
  • Renewable energy. UC graduate students completed a solar site assessment for the Berkeley campus, identifying priority buildings for solar projects and analyzing possible financing approaches. Also at Berkeley, the Associated Students (ASUC) and Graduate Student Assembly allocated $300,000 for a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the student union building, which earned an additional $300,000 in state rebates. The ASUC has now secured $500,000 from its campus bookstore operator for energy-efficiency retrofits and to install additional solar PV systems. Three UC sites participated in a California Power Authority pilot program to request bids for solar PV projects to seek cost-effective solar PV projects.
  • Buy clean and green. UC is leveraging its buying power to encourage manufacturers of laboratory-grade refrigerators and freezers to build more efficient units. It also obtained funding to test more energy-efficient fume hood technology for possible use in its laboratories.

UC is receiving national recognition for its sustainability policy. The U.S. Department of Energy invited the university to become a partner in Rebuild America. The university is also working with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to assist campuses going through the LEED Green Building Rating System® certification process.

In September 2004, federal officials praised UC’s new policies at a ceremony dedicating a U.S. EPA Energy Star® rating for the UC system-wide office building in Oakland, CA.

The university plans to issue its second-year report later this month, according to the university’s Office of the President (editors’ note: This is likely to be posted at the Office of the President’s sustainability site
[]. The new report is expected to detail and analyze the impact of the university’s sustainability efforts on energy use and building design, as well as its effects on the overall capital program and operating costs.

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