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Seattle University

Case Study

Company: Seattle University

Business Sector: Education/Institution

Published: June 2007

  • New high-tech irrigation system reduced annual water bill by $5,200

  • Reduced water flow for garbage disposals saving $31,600 per year

  • Remodeled old manufacturing building into office space using its structure as the finish work – limited waste and use of virgin materials

  • Residence Halls have had two replacements of shower heads and faucet aerators.

  • Low flow spray nozzles for all prep and lab sinks

  • Energy retrofits since 1993 net accumulated savings of $2.858 million and rebates of $1,046.951.

  • Comb  ined lighting and ventilation occupancy sensors.

  • High efficiency chillers and green refrigerants.

  • Green roof over Biology.

  • Demand management.

  • Centralized EMS system with scheduled settings for off hour setbacks.

  • 100% LED exit signs and daylight controls.

  • Pesticide free landscape maintenance

  • On site compost facility – compost used on campus. Includes all vegetable trimmings and coffee grounds.

  • Fair Trade, Shade Grown, Organic coffees served across campus

  • 30% of all produce is local, produce is organic when possible

  • Seafood is sustainably harvested (adheres to Seafood Watch guidelines).  All salmon is wild. Beef is 100% vegetarian fed, hormone-free. Eggs are cage free. Chicken and turkey are antibiotic free. Milk is hormone free.

  • Zero trans-fats used in kitchens and recently launched the Healthy Cooking Initiative to promote healthier eating.

  • Recently launched the Low Carbon Diet, emphasizing products that require less energy to make, package and transport.


Seattle University’s primary motivation for resource conservation was to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing electrical and water use and minimizing impact on the region’s resources.  “Our environmental initiatives are not difficult, they require intentional changes to the way we traditionally approached facilities management,” says Michel George, Associate VP for Facilities at Seattle University. “Some of the accomplishments required up front investments, but we overcame cost barriers by implementing projects in phases over several years and by applying city incentives,” adds George.  A ‘paradigm shift’ in facilities management is apparent in that Seattle U’s conservation accomplishment result from a wide variety of changes in buildings and processes across campus.

Going Green

Seattle University’s conservation efforts have saved significant amounts of money for the organization and brought recognition in the areas of green building, water conservation and energy efficiency. In the process, the facility received $18,000 in incentive funds from Seattle Public Utility and $66,000 from Seattle City Light.

Green Building

When Seattle U purchased a 70 year old manufacturing building they embarked on a remodel project with sustainability in mind. In the process of converting the space into offices, tons of building materials were diverted from the landfill. The university also avoided using tons of virgin resources for new building materials because the existing structure was used as finish. Concrete walls were left exposed, the concrete floor was stained, the wood ceiling was sand blasted, the front door was restored, the building’s glass block windows were kept, an old metal fire door was made into a conference room table and non-opening glass garage doors were installed in the building’s two garage door openings.

“We knew we wanted to celebrate the building’s architectural design by exposing the concrete walls and floors and wood ceiling instead of covering them up with new material,” says George.  Once the interior demolition was complete, contractors adjusted design to work with the building’s unique characteristics. “The floor was not flat, so we had to be flexible and willing to make changes in the design.  The building occupants were asked to change from enclosed offices to cubicles in a large open space, with different lighting, heating and office furniture systems than they had been used to. This required a leap of faith by the building occupants and a new way of working together,” says George.

Water Conservation

Seattle U upgraded their campus irrigation system to achieve flow management through the use of a flow sensor, which monitors the rate of flow for an active zone, and a master valve.  Limits for each zone are pre-determined and when exceeded, for example when there is a break in the line, the master valve closes so water is not wasted for days from an undetected leak.  Rain sensors were installed at each site to stop irrigation for measurable rain events. A central computer controlled irrigation system was installed that programs the water to come on in the evening hours when watering is most efficient and adjusts the irrigation clock schedules bimonthly. “This ‘high-tech’ irrigation system reduced our annual water bill by $5,200. Plus we received $18,000 from Seattle Public Utility in incentives,” says George.

In another building on campus, Seattle U metered water flow for the cafeteria garbage disposal.  The water pushing food waste into the garbage disposals in the kitchen was set at 18 gallons per minute. “Dishwashers and Facilities staff experimented with various water rates and found they could keep food waste moving to the disposal with 2.5 gallons per minute,” says George.  Reducing water flow resulted in over 11,000 gallons of water saved per day, or 32,000 gallons annually.  Incorporating energy savings to that total, the university will save $31,680 annually.  “When we looked at running operations more efficiently, we found many opportunities,” says George.

Energy Efficiency

Seattle U installed lighting and ventilation sensors in classrooms in their Pigott Building.  The dual technology sensors detect occupants and automatically turn off lights and ventilation when the space is vacant for 15 minutes.  There have been no complaints about temperature or lighting in the four years since installation.  The total project cost was $33,000.  Seattle City Light provided $13,000 in incentives. The annual energy savings is $5,600.  The project paid for itself after 3.5 years.

The university also retrofitted lighting in their Connolly sports center. They replaced the T12 lamps in the offices with T8s and replaced the old metal halide lamps in the gym with T8s.  The total project cost was $152,000. Seattle City Light provided $53,000 in incentive. The annual reduction in energy costs is $28,000 and the project paid for itself after 3.5 years.

Food Production Conservation

Seattle U contracts with Bon Appetit for their campus food services. Bon Appetit uses organic, hormone free produce and meat in all their foods. When possible locally grown produce is used to support local farmers and reduce the energy used to transport food.

Recently Bon Appetit has started a ‘Low Carbon Diet’. The diet emphasizes products that use less energy to make, package and transport.

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