Columbia University Facilities and Operations Wins Energy Industry Award For Entire Northeast Region

September 27, 2017

The accolades for Columbia University’s district energy system and related energy initiatives continued when The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) named Columbia University winner of the Institutional Energy Management for the entire northeast region covering ten states from Delaware up to Maine. The AEE, a nonprofit professional Association of over 18,000 members, presented the award to Columbia along with other award winners at the 40th annual World Energy Engineering Congress in Atlanta in late September.

The Institutional Energy Management award recognizes an institution for outstanding accomplishments in developing, organizing, managing and implementing its institutional energy management program over a period of time.

AEE is presenting the award to Columbia in connection with several ongoing energy initiatives at the University, including:

  • Columbia’s role as the single largest entity participating in the City of New York’s Clean Heat program. The University converted 87 burners serving 113 residential buildings from distillate oil to natural gas as the primary fuel source for heat and hot water, resulting in 7,236 metric tons of CO2e reduced annually and taking oil delivery trucks off the roads.
  • The central chilled water plant renewal and optimization, which, when complete, will provide a 16,300-ton capacity and offer flexibility between electric and steam production, reducing stress on the electrical grid during the summer months and allowing the university to respond to changing energy costs and demand year round. The new refrigeration machines will provide additional tons of cooling equivalent to roughly half of the cooling capacity required to service peak demand at the university’s Morningside campus, and will also produce chilled water 25 to 30 percent more efficiently, reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy costs.
  • Development of Columbia’s new campus at Manhattanville, and specifically the environmental sustainability of the building materials employed and the creative use of natural light at the new buildings to help maximize energy efficiency and limit carbon emissions. The new buildings will be served with a new and highly efficient centralized district energy plant located beneath the campus, housing dual fuel boilers and a hybrid chiller plant.
  • The installation of four, 2,000-foot deep geothermal wells at Knox Hall, which provide heating and cooling by drawing ground water from the earth, eliminating the less efficient chillers associated with more traditional systems. By coupling the building’s mechanical systems with earth’s natural resources, the geothermal wells allow for the installation of a sustainable system design which benefits not only the University but the community as a whole, as the university was able to respect the building’s historical nature and existing architecture by avoiding the installation of unsightly mechanical equipment on Knox’s roof or façade.
  • Implementation of energy-saving measures as part of compliance efforts for New York City’s Local Law 87, including the installation of energy meters for electricity, chilled water, steam and domestic water for 30 academic buildings. Metering allows for a collection of energy data to inform decision making, which will help support the work of a new committee on sustainability that has been formed at the university.

“The regional Institutional Energy Management award from the AEE has special meaning for our team at Columbia,” said Frank Martino, vice president of Operations for Columbia University Facilities and Operations. “Nearly a decade ago, we developed a central energy plant master plan in an effort to increase efficiency, add capacity and improve sustainability in delivering utilities throughout campus. This award recognizes the fruits of that master planning as a model for institutions across ten states and is an endorsement of our energy program’s implementation and related initiatives.”

In addition to the Corporate Energy Management award, NY-AEE also honored Harris Schaer, Columbia University Medical Center’s associate director of energy management and sustainability, with the organization’s Young Energy Engineer award.

In addition to the AEE regional Institutional Energy Management award, the Columbia University district energy system and related sustainability initiatives have merited numerous awards, including a perfect score in Princeton Review’s Green Ratings, a gold rating from STARS, a sustainability rating system for institutions of higher education, recognition as one of America’s Greenest Universities for 2015, a New York Energy Consumers Council Leadership Award, and an earlier award from the New York chapter of the AEE for Corporate Energy Management. To learn more about Columbia University’s central plant, visit