Make your college or university more sustainable

According to a recent survey by the Princeton Review, 63% of likely college applicants say a college or universities’ commitment to environmental issues would affect their decision to apply or attend. In addition, colleges and universities in the U.S. spend an average of $1.10 per square foot on electricity and 18¢ per square foot on natural gas annually, with typical higher-education buildings sized around 50,000 square feet consuming more than $100,000 worth of energy each year. Not only does this represent a significant expense, but building energy use is often the single largest source of campus greenhouse gas emissions. When buildings are less efficient than they could be, colleges and universities are less sustainable both financially and environmentally.

By improving energy efficiency at your college or university, you can save money, reduce your campus’s carbon footprint, and demonstrate environmental leadership. More than 250 colleges and universities from across the nation have already partnered with ENERGY STAR to benchmark and improve energy performance.

Make a commitment to save energy, save money, and protect the environment by joining ENERGY STAR as a partner and using these ENERGY STAR tools and resources to:

Only ENERGY STAR partners are eligible to apply for ENERGY STAR Awards, EPA’s top-level recognition for what an organization has done in the prior year to advance energy efficiency. Learn about what helped one recent winner, Northwestern University, earn the recognition.

Efficiency in action: The value of building-level energy meters

By installing building-level energy meters, colleges and universities can pinpoint the sources of energy waste and eliminate it. This granularity of data allows you to compare similar buildings, focus on energy-intensive spaces like labs, and more. Leading ENERGY STAR partners have demonstrated that installing building-level energy meters is one cornerstone of an effective energy management program, so it’s worth considering if your college or university is constructing new buildings or renovating older buildings.

  • Washington University of St. Louis
    Washington University in St. Louis
  • Murray State University
    Murray State University
  • Northwestern University
    Northwestern University

Assess building efficiency and validate savings

Portfolio Manager screen shot

Colleges and universities can use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to get a meaningful assessment of how efficiently their buildings are using energy, water, and waste and materials. The tool is free, online, and secure, and allows users to benchmark any type of property, including offices, dormitories, libraries, and stadiums. And because Portfolio Manager is designed to allow benchmarking of ‘parent’ and ‘child’ properties, you can benchmark your buildings at the level of data that’s available. If your campus doesn’t have building-level metering for all fuels, the ENERGY STAR “How to benchmark a campus” guide can help you get the most out of Portfolio Manager.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager differs in some key ways from other online tools for tracking sustainability data. Check out this guide on six of the leading tools for tracking sustainability at colleges and universities to learn more about them, including the different purposes that the tools serve and the ways that they interconnect.

As an added benefit, benchmarking in the tool earns points toward AASHE STARS. Use this AASHE STARS Through ENERGY STAR guide to see what ENERGY STAR tools and resources may earn points toward AASHE STARS, including ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The guide includes a reporting template so that you can download your benchmarking data to use as inputs for AASHE STARS reporting.

Earn a recognized certification for top energy performance

You might’ve heard otherwise, but many colleges and universities own and manage buildings that could earn ENERGY STAR certification. Find out if your property may be eligible, depending on the property type, the metering set-up, and its benchmarked performance.

You might wonder -- how does your building’s energy use compare to similar buildings nationwide? Is it lower, higher, or about average? The 1-100 ENERGY STAR score is a screening tool that provides a comprehensive snapshot of your building’s efficiency and helps you understand how your building is performing. It assesses the building’s physical assets, operations, and occupant behavior in one quick and easy-to-understand number.

A score of 50 is the median. So if your building scores a 25, it means it’s performing better than 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide, while a score of 75 means it’s performing better than 75 percent of its peers. It’ll help you identify which buildings in your portfolio to target for improvement (low scorers) or recognition (high scorers).

Set a certification goal this year! Earning the ENERGY STAR is a simple and effective way for you to demonstrate your efforts to protect the environment and promote your achievements to students, faculty, staff, and the community. After all, 90 percent of American households recognize the ENERGY STAR, making it one of the most widely recognized consumer symbols in the nation.

Sample list of higher education buildings certified in 2017 and 2018:

*Note that a building can have two or more uses and still be eligible for certification: the rule is that at least 75% of a building’s floor area must be a type that can get a score, and 50% must be a single type that can earn certification.

Building Owner Building Type Label Year(s) Rating(s) Year Constructed
Brandman University Office 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010 82, 83, 81, 86, 82, 80, 87, 94 1997
Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford University Office 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 91, 92, 92, 89, 91, 87, 87 1962
Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford University Office 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 81, 82, 82, 85, 76, 83 1997
Kennesaw State University Foundation Office 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011 86, 86, 85, 85, 77, 83, 77 1999
Boston College Office 2018, 2017, 2013 75, 78, 81 2007
Boston College Office 2018, 2017, 2013 94, 88, 85 2007
Boston College Multifamily Housing 2018, 2017 86, 87 2008
Boston College Office 2018, 2017 83, 79 2012
Texas A&M University Office 2018, 2016, 2015 95, 95, 96 2011
Texas A&M University Office 2018, 2016, 2015 91, 87, 86 2006
University of Miami Office 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009 92, 91, 87, 83, 79, 81, 78 1973
Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford University Office 2017, 2016, 2015 84, 82, 79 1970
Oral Roberts University Office 2017, 2016, 2015 93, 93, 93 1980
University of Florida Warehouse and Storage 2017, 2016, 2015 99, 96, 90 1964
Johns Hopkins University Office 2017, 2016 77, 75 1962


You can also earn Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR for new construction buildings. The same set of property types is eligible for this certification, and the properties must be metered at the building level for all sources of energy.

Teach students about efficiency and give them practical experience

Course pages

EPA offers a free, three-unit curriculum that colleges and universities can use to teach students about why efficiency matters and strategies for overcoming efficiency challenges. It also gives students practical experience benchmarking buildings in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The content is filled with real-world examples and hands-on student activities, and it can be adapted by instructors to meet their needs and interests, whether by integrating it into an existing course or by using it as a new, short course.

Teaching the content in places where a local benchmarking competition or requirement is being rolled out is an especially promising opportunity for applied learning. One of the optional assignments gives students a chance to learn by doing by benchmarking a building for an organization located in their community. Engagement like this could open the door to more opportunities, like working with the local government to support organizations that need to comply with the policy or by analyzing reported data.

Organize fun and educational competitions

Treasure Hunt Guide

ENERGY STAR is launching a new initiative in late 2018, the ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunt. These events are focused on bringing students, faculty, and staff together to identify sources of energy waste and opportunities for improvement, all over the course of a single day. Please visit the ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunt page to learn more, and consider holding a Treasure Hunt on your campus this October!

Buildings Guidelines

EPA offers comprehensive resources to help organizations plan and run efficiency competitions, with guidance on everything from setting rules to in-depth data management guidance. Colleges and universities have used efficiency competitions to engage and educate students, faculty, and staff around efficient behaviors and to kickstart improvement efforts. Competitions can be highly tailored, from small, internal competitions over the course of a month, such as between two residence halls on campus, or larger and longer efforts, such as expanding it to include schools in the same athletic conference to tap into some healthy rivalry and peer learning!

The resources available from EPA include a competition guide, data management guide, Excel-based tool for managing data, and co-brandable communications resources including posters, social media graphics, print-ready reminders, banners, and more. These resources are particularly helpful for engaging students in building efficiency in a fun and educational way, all while leveraging the ENERGY STAR brand.

What is the 1-100 ENERGY STAR score and certification for buildings?