Chevrolet funds campuses to “do more good”

Published on: 
12 Feb 2014
Robert Koester

Colleges and universities can now use support from Chevrolet to enhance the energy performance of individual or multiple buildings on a campus as they strive toward delivering superior LEED building performance. 

Chevrolet’s Carbon Reduction Initiative is incentivizing colleges and universities to reduce their carbon loads on the atmosphere through the voluntary carbon market; providing the funding needed to drive those clean energy efficiency reductions more deeply.

In the years since the U.S. Green Building Council established the LEED green building rating system as the driving force in facilities design, construction and operations, our collective interest has shifted from “doing less bad” to “doing more good”, to paraphrase William McDonough. We are moving from a focus on energy use reduction to net-zero performance and net-positive yield for the greater good. This shift is embodied in the facilities design and management of colleges and universities, which hold substantial land acreage and building square footages. With that comes the unilateral power to achieve energy use reduction, net-zero performance or even net-positive yields.

Consider also the value of bundling intervention strategies. Early on, designers and operations personnel realized that evaluating performance metrics of a single system did not account for the complexity of actual behavior. Indeed, change in insulation levels, equipment efficiency or connected loads required analysis of the complexity of interaction to fully understand performance; and then only through commissioning, operation and post-occupancy evaluation could we know whether that performance was achieved. These realizations provide the background for today’s focus on carbon reduction.

Such interest in energy use reduction and improved equipment efficiency certainly goes hand-in-hand with efforts to address climate change. Carbon reduction is really the driving metric against which all energy-based design, construction and operations decision-making must occur if we are to reduce our CO2-equivalent load on the atmosphere.

LEED certification also has moved from a single building focus to building groups. Now we look at the interactive performance of individual buildings as components in the net overall system performance to better measure the system-wide benefits.

Valencia College and Ball State University have piloted the development of the building scale and campus scale performance assessment methodologies whereby carbon reduction credits can be purchased by Chevrolet. The methodology developed in partnership with the Climate Business Neutral Network, enables highly qualified campuses to secure the funding needed to drive their carbon reductions more deeply and rapidly.

Given the strategic importance of integrated energy strategies, the methodology provides flexibility for campuses to optimize their own clean energy efficiency designs rather than micromanaging any particular required technologies. LEED buildings qualify for funding based on their actual energy and carbon reduction performance. The Chevrolet funding also provides a new motivation for campuses to evaluate whether a LEED building’s complex series of energy improvement designs have actually delivered their optimal performance – while providing new funding to then improve this performance even further.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this funding line is that Chevrolet will buy and retire the credits. A purchased carbon reduction credit is not used to offset emissions of Chevrolet component manufacturing, vehicle assembly or even vehicle operations. Its carbon reduction investments represent a goodwill commitment and unique source of support to further advance campuses’ clean energy efficiency leadership.

Since the interactive nature of hybrid performance is the most significant means for assessing achievement, this methodology supports and rewards system-wide actual performance If we can reduce by half the need for energy, if we can double the efficiency with which we convert that energy, and if we can source that energy from non-fossil, renewable technologies, we can have a net overall reduction to 1/8th of our original environmental load.

The Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Initiative offers a unique opportunity to leverage system-wide energy by empowering campuses to “do more good” in ways that align with the call from William McDonough for more effective clean-energy leadership.