Colleges and Universities

According to a 2022 survey by the Princeton Review, 74% of prospective applicants say a college or university’s commitment to environmental issues would affect their decision to apply or attend. By improving the energy efficiency of their buildings, higher education institutions can save money, reduce their carbon footprint, and demonstrate environmental leadership to the public. Unlike offsets, efficiency can actually save institutions money, further benefitting them through increased asset values.

Hundreds of colleges and universities from across the nation have already partnered with ENERGY STAR to benchmark and improve the energy performance of their buildings. Make a commitment to save energy, save money, and protect the environment by joining ENERGY STAR as a partner and using ENERGY STAR tools and resources to:

Assess building efficiency and validate improvements

Portfolio Manager screenshotColleges 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, institutions can benchmark their buildings at the level of data that’s available – if your institution doesn’t have building-level metering for all fuels across campus, the ENERGY STAR “How to benchmark a campus” guide can help you get the most out of Portfolio Manager.

The ENERGY STAR Higher Education Benchmarking Initiative (HEBI)

Since 2020, EPA has annually conducted the ENERGY STAR Higher Education Benchmarking Initiative (HEBI), which provides participating institutions with information about how their campus energy and water performance compare with that of peer institutions. Visit the HEBI landing page for details and timelines.

In 2022, EPA launched a new companion tool – the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Building Emissions Calculator – to enable emissions scenario planning, application of historical eGrid emissions factors, and market-based greenhouse gas accounting.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager differs 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.

The value of building-level energy meters

By installing building-level energy meters for all fuels, colleges and universities can ensure access to meaningful and actionable energy performance data. Having this more granular data allows institutions to benchmark at a building level, comparing performance across their portfolio and focusing improvement efforts on lowest performers and sources of energy waste. 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 making the installation of building-level metering a policy especially for new construction buildings and existing buildings with energy-intensive uses like laboratory spaces.

Earn EPA recognition for top energy performance

Some college and university buildings can see 1-100 ENERGY STAR scores after benchmarking in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The score is a “gold standard” indicator of how energy efficiently an existing building is performing compared to similar buildings nationwide, based on their property type(s) and operating characteristics. Buildings that can’t see a 1-100 ENERGY STAR score can see how their energy use intensity compares to a national median by property type(s).

Many types of buildings that can see a score are also eligible to apply for ENERGY STAR certification if they score a 75 or higher on the percentile scale. Earning the ENERGY STAR is a simple and effective way for you to demonstrate your efforts to protect the environment to your campus community and the public. After all, 90 percent of American households recognize the ENERGY STAR, making it one of the most widely recognized consumer symbols in the nation. Find out if your building may be eligible, depending on its property type composition, its metering set-up, and its benchmarked performance. If it’s eligible, the certification application can be completed through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, with an additional site visit conducted by a Professional Engineer or Registered Architect (can be on staff).

You can also earn Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR for new construction and major renovation buildings. The same set of property types is eligible for this recognition, and the properties must be metered at the building level for all sources of energy. Additionally, colleges and universities that lease space in commercial office buildings can apply for ENERGY STAR Tenant Space recognition.

Last, only ENERGY STAR partners are eligible to apply for ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Awards, EPA’s top-level recognition for what an organization has done in the prior year to advance energy efficiency. Two higher education institutions have earned an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award of late, including Northwestern University and The University of Chicago.

A sampling of ENERGY STAR certified higher education buildings:

Building Owner Building Type Label Year(s) Rating(s) Year Constructed
Brandman University Office 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010 93, 88, 82, 83, 81, 86, 82, 80, 87, 94 1997
Boston College Multifamily Housing 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 84, 77, 75, 86, 87 2017
Colorado State University Multifamily Housing 2022 90 1968
Emory University Office 2020 82 1985
San Bernardino Community College District Office 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 76, 86, 85, 85, 85, 80, 78, 77, 80, 84, 76, 81, 85, 85, 87 1993
Texas A&M University Office 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022 96, 95, 95, 84, 80, 81


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The Regents of the University of California Office 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2020 95, 89, 89, 90, 77 1990
The University of Chicago Office 2019, 2020, 2021 80, 84, 82 1893
University of Southern California Multifamily Housing 2022 97 1962


Engage the campus community on efficiency

Treasure Hunt Guide coverLeverage your greatest asset – people power! ENERGY STAR offers two sets of resources to engage your campus community on energy efficiency: ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunts and competition-hosting resources.

ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunts are shorter, one- or two-day events that bring students, faculty, and staff together to identify sources of energy waste and opportunities for improvement. Please visit the ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunt page to learn more, and consider holding a Treasure Hunt on your campus! Treasure Map checklists are available for property types commonly found on campus including Student Housing and Labs.

Screenshot of cover

EPA offers comprehensive resources to help organizations plan and run efficiency competitions. 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 among schools in the same athletic conference to tap into some healthy rivalry! Competition 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. Use these resources to engage your campus on efficiency in a sustained way, all while leveraging the ENERGY STAR brand.

Recognition Opportunities for Colleges & Universities

Featuring Northwestern University as a guest speaker, this January 2022 webinar highlighted opportunities for colleges and universities to earn varied recognition from ENERGY STAR and sister programs at EPA, particularly for their efforts to improve the energy performance of their existing buildings.

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