Think carbon neutrality is too high a goal for your college campus? JLL gives tips

by Brianna Crandall — April 21, 2017 — For university leaders, committing to a carbon-neutral campus can be easier said than done. While carbon neutrality is an ambitious goal, global commercial real estate services firm JLL’s new report reveals that it is achievable for U.S. universities. And environmental sustainability isn’t just on the minds of leaders in higher education; sustainable campuses have emerged as a major factor in student and faculty recruitment.

With pledges made and stakeholders more aware of sustainability than ever, how green can campuses get?

Committed to fighting climate change for quite some time, most universities have already conquered the basics, such as campus recycling, bike rentals and LEED certification for new buildings. To achieve carbon neutrality, much more is needed, according to the report. While daunting on the surface, the good news for higher education institutions is that there are sophisticated solutions, technologies and best practices to help take their commitment to the next level.

Bob Best, head of Energy and Sustainability, JLL, points out:

From students and faculty to parents and alumni, environmental sustainability is critically important and is now one of the pillars of a university’s public image. Sustainability not only appeals to key stakeholders, but allows institutions to save precious funds, operate more efficiently, realize various rebates and incentives, and anticipate state, provincial and regional energy and carbon mandates.

Earn high marks on carbon commitment journey

Hundreds of colleges and universities are already reaping the benefits of their carbon-neutrality initiatives, while others are just getting started, notes JLL. Wherever an institution stands in its journey to carbon neutrality, there are universal practices that can be applied to further environmental sustainability goals. Here are just a few of the measures university leaders can take to build a sustainable campus:

  • Take advantage of no-or low-cost measures to further success. The road to carbon neutrality can include many no-cost or low-cost initiatives for achieving carbon-footprint reductions. Small, everyday actions, from switching off unused lights and electric appliances to turning down thermostats and establishing a slightly lower set point for hot water heaters, can have a significant impact.
  • Avoid “point-chasing” tactics and focus on outcomes. While LEED, Green Globes or other certifications have their merit, pursuing certification points can overshadow the larger goals of energy conservation, environmental sustainability and building functionality.
  • Adopt smart building technologies. Funding energy conservation investments is a challenge at most institutions. The solution lies in capital planning, because better-maintained buildings tend to have smaller carbon footprints.

Best continues:

Small steps can make a significant impact in a college or university’s overall journey to carbon neutrality. For example, a university in Boston found that it could save approximately $180,000 per year for each degree of overcooling that was corrected campus-wide, and that number rose to $290,000 per degree when overheating was corrected. These are staggering results for modest, easy-to-implement steps toward the larger sustainability goal.

To see more of the best practices for living up to your presidential commitment to sustainability, download JLL’s Carbon-Neutral Campus report free from the firm’s Web site upon brief registration.

JLL’s Higher Education practice partners with public and private universities, as well as university health systems, to help fulfill their missions through the stewardship of real estate. The group taps the unrealized potential of real estate to produce cost savings, improve financial strength, manage risk, and improve the overall student experience.

JLL has reportedly worked for more than 200 colleges and universities throughout the world and provides a broad range of services that encompasses: brokerage, project and development management, sustainability solutions, public private partnerships, facilities management, and master planning. JLL’s expertise includes student housing, athletic stadiums, gateway and innovation projects, science and research facilities, parking garages, continuing education, hospitals and international campuses.