Planet Blue Operations Team Helps Cut Energy Use; Boost Recycling

Dana Budzaj Elger, Public Affairs
Release Date: 

The university continues to make progress to reduce energy consumption and boost recycling on campus as a result of ongoing efforts by the Planet Blue Operations Team.

Energy conservation measures applied in 137 Ann Arbor campus buildings have resulted in an 8.1 percent reduction in energy consumption, saving the university more than $4 million through cost avoidance last year.

The avoided energy is equivalent to the amount needed to power, heat and cool 2,565 average homes in the United States. The campus also avoided 17,800 metric tons of carbon emissions, similar to removing 3,562 vehicles from the roads. The decrease in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions supports the university's overall 2025 campus sustainability goals.

"We continue to make technical and operational adjustments in our buildings that meet the needs of the building occupants, while supporting our goals to operate more cost-effectively and sustainably," said Rich Robben, executive director of Plant Operations.

Developed in 2008, the Planet Blue Operations team is part of a campuswide campaign to make energy-efficiency improvements in campus buildings, and to increase recycling rates.

Through the program, facilities undergo adjustments, such as changes in fan ventilation schedules, installation improvements, and motion-sensing power strips to control lighting, along with an educational component to increase awareness of sustainability among building occupants and encourage behavioral changes.

Since its launch, the Planet Blue Operations program has continued to annually decrease overall energy consumption on campus at an average of 8 percent.

"The Planet Blue Operations team's success is a direct reflection of the enthusiasm and actions of our building occupants to facilitate positive change to reach our larger campus goals," Robben added.

This past year, 65 percent of the Planet Blue facilities were below their projected energy consumption levels. 

High performing buildings with notable energy reduction percentages and recycling rates include:

• Rackham Graduate School (29 percent energy reduction; 49.3 percent recycling rate).

• School of Social Work (24 percent energy reduction; 40.3 percent recycling rate, shared with School of Education).

• School of Dentistry and W.K. Kellogg Institute (12 percent energy reduction; 21.8 percent recycling rate, shared with Undergraduate Science Building).

"The School of Dentistry has a long history of being proactive and having responsible energy-conservation policies," said Dorothy Smith-Fesl, building manager at the School of Dentistry. "Working with Planet Blue we were able to implement the long overdue rescheduling of our air handlers that we anticipate will have long-term savings." 

Through the improvements made in the School of Dentistry alone, the university avoided $231,000 in energy costs. A complete list of building reports is available online:

This fall, the Planet Blue Operations Team will transition from a dedicated central operations team into regional energy managers supporting the mission of Planet Blue with the launch of new programs focused on operational excellence.