Sustainable UMass

Publication Date



How much energy do the buildings at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMA) consume? The answer to this question is of interest to those tracking energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, those paying utility bills, those studying building performance and perhaps to occupants of buildings themselves. Answering this question is complicated and timeconsuming because data on building-level energy consumption are not collected and reported in a consistent manner, in a central place, or often not collected at all. “Benchmarking”, or measuring for the purposes of comparison, provides valuable information about building energy consumption and performance, and most importantly, carbon emissions

UMA is committed to addressing climate change, and has established a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2E) emissions reduction goal. Because buildings (both their construction and operation) consume 40% of all energy, 72% of all electricity, and emit 39% of all CO2E (USGBC) UMA’s climate change mitigation strategy must address buildings. Having good data on energy consumption at the building level will allow UMA to make better strategic decisions about where to make the necessary energy savings, and to prove that the interventions have worked. Currently UMA reports data on campus-level energy consumption, costs and carbon emissions. UMA should also have a tool to benchmark its buildings’ energy consumption and carbon emissions with interpretation designed for various campus stakeholder groups (students, the Sustainability Manager, Campus Planning, Physical Plant, Facilities Planning, etc.) to make the task of addressing building-level energy consumption easier.

The goal of this project was to establish a benchmarking methodology and tool to automate the tasks of measuring, managing and visualizing building-level energy data. This project concludes with a 3-year energy and carbon emissions comparison for all metered buildings (which amounts to 88% of the gross square footage of campus), a spreadsheet template to more easily do this work in an ongoing way, and several sample benchmarking reports. Designing a way to automate these tasks proved too difficult for the scope of this practicum project. However, it is possible to automate these processes in the near future because most of the necessary data exists on Metasys, the campus building automation software designed and installed in 2008 by Johnson Controls Inc., the company contracted by UMA to execute building energy efficiency measures. Metasys displays real-time outputs from every building utility meter and sensor (i.e. chilled and hot water flow rates, occupancy sensors, lighting, dampers, temperature and humidity readings, etc.) With the aid of a computer programmer, the automation part of this tool could be achieved.