Bailey Hall (Miami '17) tightens a screw as Ben Jackson (Miami '17) and Mark Scott , assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, look on.
Bailey Hall (Miami '17) tightens a screw as Ben Jackson (Miami '17) and Mark Scott , assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, look on. Photo: Jeff Sabo

Miami University consumes half the energy of peer schools

With efforts that began more than a decade ago, Miami University has reached several energy milestones. The cumulative effect is that Miami consumes half the electric and fossil fuel of its private and public peers.

Among energy efficiencies achieved:
  • Miami reduced its carbon footprint by 45% per gross square foot since 2008.
  • Our comprehensive energy master plan eliminated the use of coal well before the target year of 2025, and increased the use of natural gas. Miami has not burned coal on site since 2016 (i.e. 2017 was our first coal-free year.)
  • Since 2006, Miami has reduced our energy consumption from 171 kbtu/gsf (kilo-British thermal units/gross square feet) to 100 kbtu/gsf as a result of our comprehensive Utility Master Plan (and other projects) to improve efficiency.
  • Miami's geothermal energy plant — the largest among Ohio colleges and universities — currently provides heating and cooling to 10 buildings, and will serve seven additional buildings by 2025.
  • The geothermal plant also drastically reduces Miami's water consumption and chemical use.

Technician at geothermal plant

A technician takes readings at Miami's geothermal plant on Western campus.

An energy survey by Sightlines, an agency providing facility and sustainability analysis, found Miami University in 2017 was consuming half the quantity of electric and fossil fuel per gross square foot than at least eight other universities.

While data was disaggregated, the list of other universities includes Carnegie Mellon, Kent State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Ohio and Purdue universities, University of Cincinnati and the University of Notre Dame.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) gave Miami its first STARS Gold rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements. AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive university sustainability information.

Other significant energy-efficiency efforts coordinated by Miami staff and faculty:

  • Miami has 23 LEED-certified buildings and has applications in for more.
  • Miami has strategically placed ponds on Western campus to manage rain and groundwater. It is slowed, cooled, and cleaned and used for irrigation, to support heat exchange for nearby buildings and to reduce erosion.
  • In 2019, Miami installed a thermal energy storage tank by Harris Drive that holds close to 1.6 million gallons of chilled water that will be used in the air conditioning processes on campus, further reducing energy use.
  • An 18-panel solar array at Miami’s Institute for Food farm produces enough power to run the irrigation system to water crops.

This summer, in response to a request from President Crawford, Miami’s sustainability committee submitted a lengthy report on university progress and goals. The committee recommended pursuing carbon neutrality.

President Crawford last week charged the committee with providing additional details about two transparent pathways to achieve that: signing the Presidents' Climate Leadership Commitment, currently signed by 10 percent of university presidents, or implementing a university-based plan.

The committee will submit a recommendation to President Crawford in early 2020.