Energy Initiatives & Projects

The University of Illinois at Chicago spends tens of millions of dollars a year on its utility bills for electricity, heating and cooling systems, and water. With increasing fuel costs, it is a high priority for the campus to reduce its consumption to reduce the drain on our operating budget for these items. Further, UIC is committed to reducing both its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the recommendations of the Chancellor’s Committee on Sustainability & Energy address energy and greenhouse gases including reducing total energy consumption by 20-40%. This can be done through energy conservation and efficiency. The campus has a number of ongoing projects in those areas, including:

In addition to these projects, UIC has established an energy policy and a series of goals to further reduce both wasteful energy consumption and harmful carbon emissions.

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  • Metering and Benchmarking

    energy_metersOur facilities management group and utilities operations have metered 28 campus buildings. These buildings combined account for 80% of total campus energy consumption and 70% of the square footage of our campus buildings. The metering includes electricity, high-temperature hot water or steam, and chilled water. Most buildings found on the east side of campus uses high-temperature hot water for heating in the cold months. Most buildings on the west side of campus use steam for heating in the cold months. In the summer, buildings are cooled by chilled water systems. The meters feed into a computer system that allows our building engineers and utilities to monitor the energy consumption and detect unusual trends that could indicate problems with the systems in those buildings. This allows them to prioritize projects and locate “hot spots” for energy consumption. Also, by having this data, we have a baseline for evaluating energy projects.


    The energy data provided by the meters is put into the Energy STAR Portfolio Manager by the Office of Sustainability for benchmarking. Benchmarking of building utilities is crucial in analyzing how energy projects have improved energy use and for developing new projects. Work is underway to meter and benchmark the rest of the buildings on campus, starting with those that are 250,000 square feet or more.

    The following buildings are benchmarked in Energy STAR Portfolio Manager and metered:

    West side

    • 908 College of Medicine West
    • 909 College of Medicine West Tower
    • 910 College of Medicine East Tower
    • 911 Clinical Science North
    • 919 Molecular Biology Research Building
    • 920 Clinical Sciences Building
    • 922 Marshfield Avenue Building
    • 924 College of Pharmacy
    • 934 College of Medicine Research Building
    • 940 College of Dentistry
    • 948 Outpatient Care Center
    • 949 University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital
    • 975 School of Public Health and Psychiatric Institute

    East side

    • 601 University Hall
    • 607 Science and Engineering Laboratory East
    • 608 Science and Engineering Laboratory West
    • 609 Richard J Daley Library
    • 612 Grant Hall
    • 613 Douglas Hall
    • 614 Lincoln Hall
    • 618 Behavioral Sciences Building
    • 619 Science and Engineering South
    • 623 EPASW
    • 628 Art & Architecture
    • 631 Science and Engineering Offices
    • 633 Physical Education
    • 648 Engineering Research
    • 667 Forum

    The following campus auxiliary buildings have partial metering and are currently in the process of being fully metered (E=electric meters; CW=chilled water):

    • 605 Student Center East – E, CW
    • 630  Student Recreation Facility – E, CW
    • 644 Student Residence and Commons – E, CW
    • 663 Thomas Beckham Hall – CW
    • 664 Marie Robinson Hall – CW
    • 667 Stukel Towers – E
    • 923 Student Residence Hall – E, CW
    • 937 Polk Street Residence Hall – E, CW
    • 938 Student Center West – E, CW
    • 951 Single Student Residence – E, CW
    • 953 UIC Sport and Fitness Center – E, CW
    • 959 On The Mall – E
  • Energy Performance Contracting

    Energy projects have a good return on investment. This means energy service companies can count on predictable energy cost savings to pay back on their investment. “Colleges and universities, often short on cash, find this an ideal option for advancing projects that otherwise would be out of reach. Hiring an energy services company (ESCO) as a contractor to plan, finance, design and implement projects is an effective way to carry out large and expensive initiatives.” (Higher Education in a Warming World) “An ESCO can implement large energy projects that produce positive cash flow and pay for themselves.” (The Green Campus) In the end, the school reaps continuing savings without having any negative numbers on its balance sheet. Many campuses such as the University of Buffalo, Eastern Illinois University and Governor State University have used this mechanism to finance projects.

    The ESCO project at UIC began retrofitting buildings in Fall 2013 and should finish all upgrades by early 2015. The targeted buildings in the Science and Engineering Laboratories Complex (Science and Engineering Laboratory East, Science and Engineering Laboratory West, Science and Engineering South, Science and Engineering Offices, and Engineering Research Facility) have a combined square footage of 1,221,820 GSF, accounting for 17% of the square footage on the East Side of Campus and 8% of the total campus.

    These buildings comprise UIC’s four major laboratory facilities on the East Side of campus.  All but one of the buildings were constructed in the mid-1960’s and still retain their original mechanical systems, causing them to be the major consumers of energy on the East Side of campus.

    Their combined energy consumption in FY2013 was equivalent to 270 million kWh which makes up 1/3 of the energy use on the east side.

    This project will result in an overall savings of greater than 30% which is equivalent to the electricity to power 2,500 homes. It will also reduce UIC’s greenhouse gas emissions due to the operation of our buildings by 3.5%  (the same as  taking about 2,000 passenger vehicles off the road). The project will also create: 592 Direct jobs; 371 Indirect; 314 Induced (source Ameresco).

    See the UIC News article. For lots of details about the project and the process go to the Ameresco site.

  • Shadow Billing

    One of the many benefits of the metering project is that it will allow the university to report energy consumption back to the colleges and administrative units that occupy space in UIC’s buildings. This will heighten awareness of the real costs of energy utilization, reinforce efforts that we will be taking to promote conservation by students, faculty and staff.

    We plan to report this information on the Office of Sustainability website and signage in the buildings. Look for this during the coming academic year.

  • Renewable Energy

    There are three campus buildings that utilize renewable energy:

    Lincoln Hall soloar panelsGrant Hall utilizes geothermal ground source heat pump system to reduce energy usage. It uses the relatively constant earth temperature to heat or cool water flowing through the building and into the well to draw or reject heat. Click here for more information on Grant Hall.

    Lincoln Hall has 224 solar panels that have produced over 250 MWh of electricity over its lifetime which amounts to 4,500 trees saved. Lincoln Hall also utilizes the same geothermal system for heating and cooling the building. Click here for more information on Lincoln Hall.

    Douglas Hall has 244 solar panels that have produced over 140 MWh of electricity in its lifetime which is equal to 2,500 trees saved. It takes advantage of the same geothermal system that both Lincoln and Grant use. Click here for more information on Douglas Hall.

    The Geothermal Ground Source Heat Pump System – A large vertical closed-loop field provides heating and cooling for the three above, renovated buildings. In total, the system is calculated to satisfy eighty percent of the maximum load of all three buildings. It started with Grant Hall, a 15,000 square-foot office and classroom building which was renovated in 2007. Its loop field required 14 boreholes drilled 500 feet deep. Based on Grant Hall’s success, a 50-borehole loop field drilled 500 feet deep was added in the same area and hooked up to the newly renovated 25,000 square-foot Lincoln Hall. This 1960s-era classroom building reopened in late 2009. The loop field also was designed to accommodate nearby Douglas Hall, the 25,000 square-foot home of the business school which reopened in 2011.

    Grant Hall’s $190,000 geothermal system cost was primarily funded by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, with the remainder from UIC funds designated for renovations of classroom and laboratory space. (The subsequent 50 wells cost approximately $650,000 to install.) To date, the Grant Hall system is performing better than originally expected, achieving an estimated eighteen percent in energy savings over the former heating system and contributing to a fifty percent cut in overall energy use for the building since the renovation. The geothermal HVAC equipment provides more comfortable heating and cooling than was delivered previously by the central heating plant. With geothermal, it is easy to maintain a 72° temperature year-round. In the past, complaints about inconsistent temperatures were common, especially during the transition seasons of spring and fall..

  • Cogeneration

    The ability of power plants to purchase fuel at a reduced cost created a unique arrangement for power generation at the University of Illinois.  Utility Operations, an independent organization operating within the University, runs its own cogeneration plants on the UIC campus.  Cogeneration is the simultaneous production of heat and power in a single thermodynamic process.  Instead of discarding the heat produced by the power production process, it is captured and used to provide space heating and hot water heating, thus eliminating the added expense of burning fuels for the sole purpose of space heating.  This plant runs primarily on natural gas which is cleaner than coal and fuel oil when considering hazardous air pollutants and carbon dioxide. When operated under certain conditions, cogeneration can be beneficial and helps lower the emission of carbon and sulfur dioxide pollutants into the air.  

  • Lighting Upgrades

    By now most of us have heard that replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs can save energy. On campus we have many fluorescent light fixtures (the long bulbs). UIC began replacing these fixtures with more efficient ones  with grants from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Funding from Illinois Clean Energy has totaled almost $1M over the first four years while UIC has contributed over $1M of its own funds to these projects. In 2010 we will began replacing even more fixturew with additional funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in cooperation with Com-Ed. UIC will be replacing T12 fluorescent lighting fixtures with high efficiency electronic ballasts and T8 lamps. To date we have made replacements that save over 2,200,261 kWh per year (approximately $110,000/yr).

    Lighting Upgrade Schedule


    Building Name kWh saved/yr Completed
    931 Environmental Health and Safety Offices  32,569 7/30/2012
    633 Physical Education Building  569,400 9/1/2012
    922 Marshfield Avenue Building  96,027 12/3/2012
    630 Student Recreation Facility  139,722 12/31/2012
    924 College of Pharmacy  81,921 1/15/2013
    949 University of Illinois Hospital  124,297 3/31/2013
    618 Behavioral Sciences Building  57,790 9/1/2013
    957 Lions of Illinois Eye Research Institute  87,708 9/15/2013
    605 Student Center East  65,223 9/30/2013
    916 Applied Health Sciences Building  45,315 12/2/2013
    607 Science & Engineering Laboratory East  383,180 1/15/2014
    608 Science & Engineering Laboratory West  180,569 1/15/2014
    631 Science & Engineering Offices  56,232 1/15/2014
    648 Engineering Research Facility  154,228 1/15/2014
    619 Science & Engineering South  126,180 2/12/2014


    Building Name kWh Saved/yr Scheduled
    601 University Hall



    623 EPASW TBD


    628 Architecture and Design Studios TBD


    924 College of Pharmacy TBD


    940 College of Dentistry TBD


    949 University of Illinois Hospital




  • Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

    Numerous projects are planned and in process to improve HVAC systems across campus. These projects will improve the efficiency of the systems, provide better control of temperatures, and make those areas more comfortable for building occupants.

    609 Daley Library 

    Installed high efficiency air handlers. The south end was addressed during the creation of the IDEA Commons.

    623 Education, Performing Arts and Social Work

    The heating and cooling systems in the Education Performing Arts and Social Work (EPASW) Building were upgraded. The old system had Air Handling Units (AHUs) that were outdated and regularly broke down, resulting in compromised performance and an inability to maintain comfortable temperatures. There was difficulty in maintaining and regulating various temperatures because of non-functional thermostats and bad controls. There was no chiller to provide additional cooling when the theatre is in use. Pneumatic controls were also outdated and unreliable and caused overheating in many spaces. In the 1980s in the first wave of energy conservation, the semi-variable air dampers were installed in some rooms to modulate air flow. Later, when problems occurred, the dampers were simply removed and not repaired. All of these inefficiencies meant high power consumption and high maintenance costs. The building system was made up of five AHUs, perimeter heat from the campus central plant, and reheat coils to reheat air in the ducts when necessary. This project took out the 5 old AHUs, installed state-of-the-art, more efficient units. They shut-off the reheat system and operate the building without them. The new efficient AHUs will better maintain and regulate the required temperature and will provide more comfortable space conditions for the occupants. A new energy-efficient chiller was added for the Theatre which will provide more reliable service throughout the year. Replacement thermostats and dampers will provide better temperature control in all rooms. The new web-based building automation system (BAS) will facilitate online control of the system, providing more efficient operation, service and savings benefits. New controls on the perimeter radiation system will allow the building engineer to monitor and control the temperature of the perimeter heating units.Automation improves comfort. New wireless thermostats with integral motion sensors were installed to replace the old ones. The thermostats will be set to work within a reasonable range under the occupants’ control. They will work on stand-by mode when no motion is detected in the room (unoccupied mode). When someone is present they will be activated to the temperature set by the occupant. The new BAS system monitors and controls occupancy, airflow, and temperature. Building occupants canaccess the BAS system on-line and see how the building is performing and the temperatures in the rooms with thermostats.The new equipment is approximately 8% more energy efficient than the old equipment. Also, the BAS will allow the fans to run at lower speeds at least 30% of the time which is estimated to increase the total energy savings to 15%.All of the design work for this project was done by UIC’s own Office of Capital Program (OCP) staff. This, too, resulted in significant savings for the project.

    919 Molecular Biology Research Building

    Replaced all current air conditioning and heating controls with current state of the art digital controls. This provides the opportunity to better control temperatures throughout the building, allowing for implementation of energy conservation measures.

    936 College of Nursing

    HVAC System upgrades were completed in the basement through third floor to more efficient units. In addition, direct digital control valves and sensors replaced the old fan coil control valves, allowing for better control of temperatures on these floors.

    909 College of Medicine Learning Center in College of Medicine East Tower

    During FY2014 heat pumps will be installed for more individual climate control. New windows will provide updated envelope.

    924 College of Dentistry

    New updated building system controls, new air handlers, pumps with variable frequency drive, low flow fume hoods and lighting retrofits are being installed. Laboratories have higher air exchange rates to allow for adequate ventilation of potential chemical contaminants and thus a lot of energy is lost when that air is exhausted.  Therefore, a heat recovery system is also being installed to capture the heat from the exhaust air. In addition, this is the first building at UIC to install the chilled beam technology which is a convection HVAC system that relies on the difference in air density of hot and cold air to create air movement.

    949 University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System – floors 2 and 3

      • Occupancy sensors
        12,750 kWh/year saved from lighting retrofits
        Air-cooled Chiller replacement
        Replace air-handling units fan motors
        Chilled water modifications
        Temperature setbacks
        Add Variable Frequency Drive to reheat loop
        Upgrade four air handlers
        Add thermostatic control to two air handlers

    974 Disability, Health and Social Policy Building

    Installed 3 new air handling units with new control technology

  • Retrocommissioning

    UIC has participated in the SEDAC Retrocommissioning program for several years. This program offers retro-commissioning guidance by identifying measures to improve the control, scheduling, and operation of energy consuming systems to match the current functional requirements of the building. The end result: significant energy and demand savings, and in

    Student Recreation Facility 

    The SRF building was evaluated under a pilot project in 2009. The $40,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is helped UIC save as much as $60,000 a year! The grant went towards consultant pay to inspect the building and find ways to reduce energy and costs in the building.

    The project optimized the systems, increased user comfort and keeps the university from wasting energy.

    Energy usage from lighting has been reduced by stopping usage when the building is empty. They also adjusted hot water circulation run-time, the fan belts on the air conditioning fans, and the usage of fresh air in the building.

    Westside Research Office Building


    The UIC Westside Research Office Building (WROB) is a 5-story facility built in 2004. The 155,174 square foot building houses administrative offices, data research and clinical research rooms. The UIC west side power plant high-pressure steam for the building systems for heating and the absorption chillers.

    The five Retro-Commissioning Measures (RCxMs) for this project have a simple combined payback of less than months. Based on preliminary findings, UIC expects to see an estimated annual energy savings of overall 7.7% which translates to approximately $24,000 per year.

    This building is typically occupied from 8 am to 6pm weekdays. The RCxMs include measures that adjust air supply down when buildings are unoccupied and changing the temperature set point for supplied air when weather permits.

    College of Medicine Research Building

    The UIC College of Medicine Research Building (COMRB) is a 13-story facility built in 2005. The 335,246 square foot building houses laboratories, offices, conference rooms and an auditorium. The UIC west side power plant provides chilled water and steam for the building systems. Four of the nine air handling units (AHUs) provide 100% outdoor air to the laboratories and animal areas, the remainder are for offices, corridors, the auditorium, utility rooms and dock.

    Based on preliminary findings, UIC expects to see an estimated annual energy savings of about 7.0% annual energy cost savings which translates to approximately $94,000 per year.

    The RCxMs include

    1. Correct airflow measuring devices – the rooms are equipped with variable air ventilation (VAV) which means air supply can vary dependent on the ventilation needs. The airflow measuring devices are not reading correct values causing higher levels of air supply to be provided than necessary. Since the air must be conditioned this RCxM would decrease heating and cooling demand and reduce energy consumption.
    2. Auditorium unit scheduling – the AHU for this room can be scheduled to operate at occupancy levels when the room is in use. However, it is currently running 24/7. This measure would implement an occupancy schedule that shuts the unit off according to a predetermined schedule and might require an occupancy switch or sensor to be installed so users can override the schedule without calling an engineer.

    Outpatient Care Center

    During 2013, this 206,371 square foot building was audited for retrocommissioning measures. The Outpatient Care Center is a 5-story facility constructed in 1999 and houses offices, exam rooms, an MRI, and a pharmacy. It receives steam from the UIC central plant and uses 3 absorption chillers to use the steam to produce chilled water for this building and for two buildings nearby. For heating, the steam is converted to hot water through shell and tube heat exchanges. The three measures implemented this year out of the nine identified, resulted in an annual savings of:

    1. Electricity: 179.723 kWh (2.15% electricity savings)
    2. Natural gas: 39,490 Therms (14.3% natural gas savings)
    3. Overall Energy Savings: 4,562,000 kBtu (7.2% kBtu savings)
    4. Cost savings: $63,754 (6.93% cost savings)

    The measures implemented include:

    1. Repair return fan variable pitch fans
    2. Repair steam isolation valves – two leaking steam isolation valves were replaced.
    3. Repair steam relief valves – steam leaks were repaired by replacing the valves

    Planned Projects

    The approximately 10-year old residence halls on the south end of campus – Marie Robinson Hall and Thomas Beckham Hall are scheduled for retrocommissioning in FY2015.

  • Building Envelope

    The building envelope (i.e. walls, windows, foundations, doors, and roofs) greatly affects how efficient a building will be in maintaining comfortable interior temperatures. Insulation in walls and seals around windows and doors are prime factors.

    Low-emittance coatings (microscopically thin, virtually invisible, metal or metallic oxide layers deposited on a window or skylight glazing surface primarily to reduce the U-factor by suppressing radiative heat flow), gas-fills, and insulating spacers and frames can significantly reduce winter heat loss and summer heat gain through windows.

    Roofing Projects

    Light colored roof coatings are commonly used to reduce the heat load on buildings during the summer. UIC’s roofs have intense solar heat gain (energy) because of their relatively flat exposure to the sun. The intense solar gain raises the temperature of the roof membrane (sometimes near 200°F), which increases cooling load in the building and shortens life of the roof. UIC is lowering its cooling costs and extending roof life by putting a reflective coating on its roofs, as they are reroofed. (Read More)

    Also, new thicker insulation will be installed. The insulation will prevent loss of cool air in summer and hot air in winter, reducing the energy demand required for heating and cooling these buildings.

    Green roofs are another way to reduce heat load and capture water run-off. A small green roof was created on the patio/roof surface of Building 628-07 (Art and Architecture). Sections of the elevated plazas that have been replaced on the Behavioral Sciences Building will have greenery. Education, Performing Arts and Social Work (EPASW) plaza is a green roof over the green room.

    Window Replacements

    Windows were replaced on the east façade of the College of Medicine West Tower. Windows will are double pane insulated glass thereby significantly reducing the load on the heating and cooling systems and drafts which reduces energy demand.

    186 windows were replaced in 911 Clinical Sciences Building, OBGyne department.  The old single pane steel sash windows were removed and replaced with double pane windows with thermally broken frames.

    Additional projects:

    • 924 College of Pharmacy
    • 909 College of Medicine
    • 642 CUPPA Hall
  • Review and Benchmarking of Utility Operations

    An outside vendor will be responsible for conducting a comprehensive review and benchmark of utilities operations on all three campuses, developing and analyzing improvement options, and submitting formal recommendations concerning how utility costs for the University can be reduced and managed through:

    • Optimizing the mix of produced and purchased energy
    • Cost effective investments in utility production facilities
    • Cost effective investments in utility distribution facilities
    • Utility consumption reduction measures
    • Campus utility metering systems