Pepperdine Cuts Energy Use by 20-30 Percent with New Lighting, Energy Controls

Published: February 11, 2014

Pepperdine University has been an eco-conscious institution for many years, displaying a commitment to sustainable living practices as well as energy conservation. Since 1986, the Malibu, Calif.-based university has sought ways to reduce overall energy consumption at the school, which has resulted in a number of policy and operational changes. Pepperdine recently expanded its efforts through an extensive lighting retrofit on its Drescher campus.

“We were mandated by our president to lower our energy usage so this was part of that program. He asked us to reduce 10 percent of our usage,” says Les Thomas, manager of Energy Services at Pepperdine.

Through a program with the school’s utility company, Southern California Edison (SCE), Pepperdine was able to cover the cost of installing Lutron wireless occupancy sensors and Lutron wireless COO modules to reduce energy used by the university’s HVAC system. Pepperdine also made a number of changes to lighting fixtures.

“We took the existing fixtures that were three bulb fixtures using 32 watts and we reduced those bulbs to two instead of three [with] 28 watt bulbs and changed to a higher efficiency ballast,” says Thomas. “We also turned around and installed motion sensors in offices and classrooms.”

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Thomas connected those classroom sensors to the school’s energy management system, which controls airflow into the rooms. Now, when a room is unoccupied, the airflow to the room shuts off, which reduces the load on the university’s HVAC system, resulting in further energy savings.

The project was made possible by SCE’s Private School Program, which provides private schools with the means to reduce energy expenditure through cost-effective measures. FCI Management Inc., the contractor on the project, conducted a campus energy survey to identify areas of opportunity for reducing energy usage and the lighting retrofit was designed from there.

School Goes Wireless, Saves Money

The design for the lighting project originally called for wired occupancy sensors. However, the cost of the installation of those products would have put the university over budget. That is when Lutron was enlisted and Thomas tested the company’s wireless Energi TriPak solution, which he ultimately decided to have installed.

“Because it was wireless and there was less wire and labor involved, they were able to actually meet their budget and get the [products] installed,” says Brant Small, Business Development leader, Energy Solutions, Lutron. “It’s a lot easier to manage, maintain and install from the contacting perspective because there are less materials. You don’t have to worry about existing building constraints and things you would typically run into.”

The wireless solution took less time to install and the project was quickly completed over a series of weekends. According to Thomas, the new lighting and energy controls have been in place for about six months now and the university has been able to reduce energy usage by about 20 to 30 percent. He also estimates that by integrating the occupancy sensors with the VAV (Variable Air Volume) boxes, Pepperdine has reduced HVAC energy usage by an additional 14 percent.

Be Sure to Choose the Right Sensors

The university has been very happy with the results of its new lighting and energy management controls, but the project was not without the usual bumps in the road. Pepperdine originally had wall box sensors installed in its office spaces. In a few of the offices, motion did not turn the lights on and the university discovered that a ceiling sensor might be a better fit than the ones on the wall.

“In some environments, those particular sensors aren’t a good solution depending upon the size of the office, whether there are bookshelves or partitions that could obstruct the view of the sensor,” says Small. “Typically in larger spaces a ceiling-based sensor is optimal for occupancy coverage.”

Pepperdine had the wall sensors switched out and the university is now working on a proposal to introduce a similar retrofit on its lower campus.

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Strategy & Planning Series