University of Chicago, Multiple Facilities

Chicago, IL

University of Chicago, campus


As part of its overall sustainability plan and greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, the university started a Preventative Maintenance and Commissioning (PM+Cx) program in 2019. This process develops systems manuals for the HVAC equipment; identifies HVAC operational issues; identifies energy optimization opportunities; identifies demand response strategies; implements selected facility improvement measures; and monitors performance for persistent energy savings. A schedule targeting the highest energy-consuming buildings was developed and is being followed. Two of the lab projects (Gordon Center, Searle) were honored with ASHRAE awards at the state and regional levels.


GBA has been the primary consultant leading the individual projects in the university’s retro-commissioning (PM+Cx) initiative. From 2019 to 2022, GBA completed projects in 15 buildings of diverse types, including the Law School, Searle Chemistry Laboratory, the David Logan Arts Center, Manseuto Library, the Ratner Athletic Center, the Anatomy Building, the Gordon Center for Integrative Science, the Max Pavlevsky Residential Commons, Hinds Laboratory, the Biopsychological Research Building, William Eckhardt Research Center, Jones Laboratory, Campus North Residence Hall, Crerar Library, and the Michelson Center for Physics. Work continues, with current projects involving the Renee Granville-Grossman Residential Commons, the Social Service Administration Building, and the Lab Schools.

Common implemented energy savings measures included economizer optimization, zone airflow scheduling, temperature reset, replacing failed valves and replacing failed sensors. The projects averaged 11.3% verified annual energy cost savings, and the average simple payback was one year. Laboratory projects have shown the most impressive savings in this initiative. Examples include:

  • Gordon Center for Integrative Science, 472,000 square feet. Sixteen measures were identified and nine implemented. Work included optimizing the run-around heat recovery system by fixing failed valves, resetting temperature setpoints, and resetting pump differential pressure setpoints. Savings included 770,000 kWh and 20,230 Mlbs of steam, for a verified total savings of $237,000/year and annual energy reduction of 10%.
  • William Eckhardt Research Center, 284,000 square feet. Fourteen measures were identified and eight implemented. Work included installing new temperature sensors and modifying the AHU control sequence in order to maximize energy recovery wheel operation. Savings included 402,000 kWh; 493,020 ton-hours of chilled water; and 3,400 Mlbs of steam, for a verified total savings of $117,000/year and annual energy reduction of 9.3%.
  • Michelson Center for Physics, 67,092 square feet. Eight measures were identified and six implemented. Work included adjustments to the room pressurization control sequence for electronics labs and the temperature reset parameters related to the chilled beam makeup air system. Savings included 110,100 kWh; 140,500 ton-hours of chilled water; and 1,360 Mlbs of steam, for a verified total savings of $37,550/year and annual energy reduction of 25.1%.
  • Searle Chemistry Laboratory, 86,506 square feet. Sixteen RCx measures were identified and 10 implemented, mainly targeting fume hood optimization, AHU temperature reset, exhaust fan optimization, cleanroom humidification, and correction of simultaneous cleanroom heating/cooling. Savings included 905,000 kWh; 88,000 ton-hours of chilled water; and 3,500 Mlbs of steam, for a verified total savings of $50,000/year and annual energy reduction of 11%.

Photos: University of Chicago

View More Projects

Interested in learning more about how GBA can assist with your facility objectives? Our portfolio is a great place to start. 

Skyscraper board room

430 N. Michigan (Realtor Building)

A large-scale vertical expansion called on GBA's analytical, design, and commissioning skills.

Hallway with rehab equipment

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Pediatric & DayRehab Center

This outpatient center serves children and adults; GBA provided engineering design services for the adaptive reuse project.

Exterior of Todd Building, University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky, Lee T. Todd, Jr. Building

An ASHRAE Level 1 audit,  retro-commissioning, and a lab ventilation assessment improved sustainability.