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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Castrillón

Energy Management at UC Berkeley

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the base of The Campanile

On a recent cross country road trip, my girlfriend and I were taking some time to rest and recover from our stint on the road with some Southern hospitality from Atlanta friends who transplanted to the Bay Area. While they went about their daily routine, we found ourselves, as usual, running through the city and discovering the streets on foot. We ended up ascending the Stonewall-Panoramic trail in the Berkeley hills, rewarded with a breathtaking (not just from elevation gain) view from the top of the Oakland Bay Bridge.

On our muddy descent into the city of Berkeley, we stumbled upon the campus of the University of California - Berkeley, and my building science curiosity was piqued. Coming from a southern university with distinct and historic redbrick architecture, I immediately noticed the unique and modern structures constructed on campus. Many of the buildings featured modern systems and green building designs like natural light management, efficient HVAC systems, and solar panel arrays. The most impressive building (from my building science lens) was Jacobs Hall. It was awarded LEED Platinum status, the highest honor of the green building certification program. Its rooftop solar arrays produce about 120,000 kWh (60% of the energy load) of clean power each year for the building!

It turns out that UC Berkeley has a long history of energy management, sustainable development, and environmental policies. The Office of Energy has existed for 41 years, and has made significant process in achieving the sustainability goals set forth by the university. According to the Berkeley Office of Sustainability, by 2025 UC campuses are required to procure 100% carbon-free electricity. Each year, UC Berkeley maintains accountability by reporting data to the Association of Advancing Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). AASHE administers the STARS certification program, of which UC Berkeley has achieved the coveted “Gold” status.

Soda Hall, another unique and efficient building on campus.

The future success of energy reduction on a college campus relies on several factors, including a top-down energy policy with a comprehensive and effective energy management plan. UC Berkeley has already implemented a fundamental energy saving strategy by monitoring its energy usage and managing all of the utilities across the campus. One hundred and thirty seven buildings are monitored and managed on a real-time data-tracking dashboard that allows for smart facilities maintenance decisions and clear communication to other departments.

It’s inspiring to see the commitment to sustainability at such a large institution like UC Berkeley. They have made considerable strides to achieve their goals, and effective energy management has been at the heart of it all.

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