northwestern university

A multi-decade initiative helped the university develop, update, and execute a comprehensive energy management master plan involving two campuses.

Northwestern University Evanston campus Weber Arch.

The Objective

Northwestern University encompasses a 4.5 million-square-foot, 240-acre campus in Evanston, IL, and a 25-acre campus in downtown Chicago. The energy management program initiative included operations and maintenance, retrofits of existing systems, and the incorporation of energy efficient features into the university’s master specifications and design standards.


The Response

During a 10-year period, GBA completed in-depth energy studies for 39 buildings covering nearly 4.5 million square feet. Fifty-five percent of the cost of the studies was funded through state and federal grants, obtained with assistance from GBA.

  • Based on recommendations defined in the studies, $3 million of energy conservation measures were implemented over that 10-year period.
  • As part of the energy conservation measures, much of the campus’ existing fluorescent lighting was converted to energy efficient T8 lamps with electronic ballasts, and many fixtures were retrofitted with silver reflectors.
  • The projected overall payback for these implemented projects was less than five years. GBA helped the university obtain eight federal grants totaling $1.4 million to help fund the funding energy conservation measures.
  • Factoring in the grants received, the simple payback on the university’s funds was just under 1.2 years on the total project cost of $3 million.
  • These energy grants and savings helped fund an extensive campus energy management and control system designed by GBA.
  • More than a decade later, GBA began performing energy audits for 54 buildings on both the Chicago and Evanston campuses as part of an aggressive university incentive to reduce energy consumption and costs. The university continues to implement projects based on recommendations from this later round of analyses.

Multiple rounds of studies and analyses

Large-scale campus lighting retrofits

BAS upgrade

55% of costs covered by federal and state grants

Dual-campus energy reduction initiative

The Results

$ cost of energy conservation measures

$ value of implementation grants obtained

Payback factoring in grants (yr)

Aerial overview of Northwestern University Evanston Campus
View from Lake Michigan of Northwestern University's downtown Chicago Campus
Northwestern University gothic building exterior in winter.
The Pat and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston. (Photo by Jim Prisching)