WMU News

New energy policy dictates building temperatures

May 11, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- The new mantra at Western Michigan University may soon be "don't touch that dial."

Although Michigan residents face their first big hike in energy prices this month, WMU has been battling rising energy costs for several years. As part of an ongoing effort to control those costs, the University recently instituted a campuswide temperature set point.

During the summer cooling season, building temperatures must be set at 76 degrees. In cold weather, the set point is 70 degrees.

"Our energy costs have risen by more than $2 million in the last year alone," says Carl Newton, assistant director of maintenance services, who is coordinating the set point implementation. "And that rise is despite a variety of energy reduction initiatives we've already implemented. We're counting on the campus community to pitch in and help reduce consumption."

According to Newton, the 70/76 set point is more moderate than those implemented around much of the nation during the 1970s oil crisis. The industry standard at that time, he notes, was 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer. Even today, federal law mandates that temperatures in California federal buildings be set at 78 degrees during the cooling season.

"We understand that individual physical makeups are different, and we tried to find a set point where everyone will be reasonably comfortable," says Newton. "However, the change may require a bit of a sacrifice from all of us. At this point, there's no alternative."

Over the next few weeks, staff members from maintenance services will adjust temperatures in some 50 campus facilities with computer-controlled heating and cooling systems. Faculty, staff and students in spaces with older systems are being asked to comply voluntarily.

Maintenance service staff members will begin random checks of thermostat settings in offices around campus this summer. Space heaters are forbidden under the new policy, and Newton asks that members of the campus community with personally owned space heaters take them home immediately. University-owned space heaters will be collected over time.

"We want to encourage people to see this as a positive change for conservation and preservation of the environment," Newton says. "Our office will let the campus community know about the most accommodating building occupants.

"We also hope that people will learn more about energy reduction through the University's policies, and will perhaps institute some of those same approaches in their homes. Energy costs are going to be a big issue for some time to come."

Information about the University's energy reduction program can be found on the Web at <www.pp.wmich.edu/maintenance>.

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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