Buildings and Operations

At the University of Guelph, operating our campus sustainably is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and greening our campus fleet. It is also about bringing together academics and the teams that operate our campus to find ways to use the campus as a living lab to incubate the big, bold and bright ideas. These ideas generate new knowledge and create positive changes in the world around us – both locally and globally. We know that the way we operate the places we study, work and play in is a reflection of our commitment to leading in advancing environmental sustainability. The stories that follow are examples of how we’re doing just that.

Energy Retrofits

Working together as a community and communicating with decision-makers can make a big difference in enacting change and promoting large-scale energy conservation. In 2007, students at the University of Guelph felt so strongly about the necessity for energy conservation and climate action that they voted to enter a funding partnership with the university administration. Each undergraduate student paid $10/semester through this partnership, and each graduate student paid $6.75/semester into the Student Energy Retrofit Fund (SERF) over the next 12 years. Each dollar paid by students was matched one-to-one by the university and directed solely at energy conservation projects. Some of these projects are listed in detail below. A multi-stakeholder committee of students, faculty and staff called the Energy Conservation Working Group (ECWG) met monthly to discuss projects and opportunities for using the joint energy conservation funding.

In 2019, there was a student-led referendum to renew the Student Energy Retrofit Fund and expand it to meet the growing demands for a broader fund for campus sustainability and climate action projects. This referendum, which passed quorum and received a majority "yes" vote, created the Sustainability Action Fund (SAF). This fund will see undergraduate students contributing $10/semester until 2050. To learn more about this fund, please visit the Sustainability Action Fund information page.

Projects are selected based on:

  • reducing environmental impact
  • visibility
  • payback
  • innovation
  • educational opportunities

Here are some highlights from past years:

Rozanski Projects (2003 - 2004)

Stack Heat Recovery

The university heats close to 9,000m2 of our building space with recovered waste heat. A significant step in energy conservation on campus was installing a stack heat-recovery unit in our Central Utilities Plant, which produces the steam which heats most of the campus. The heat recovery unit captures a portion of the exhausted heat energy from the stack and uses it to heat the water that heats Rozanski Hall and the MacKinnon Building Extension, essentially heating them for free.

Chiller Replacement

Most cooling on campus is taken care of through the use of centrally chilled water. The installation of new chillers in 2003 helped energy efficiency at the source. The newer chillers use 0.5 kilowatts/ton of refrigeration instead of the 0.8 kilowatts/ton that the old chillers used. The new chillers also use non-CFC coolants.

Crop Science Retrofit (2004 - 2005)

The Crop Sciences building underwent an energy retrofit over the summer of 2004, greatly reducing water and energy use. Changes included upgrading and altering the lighting in the horticultural growth rooms, upgrading urinal systems, adding aerators to taps, upgrading the air handling units to respond to increased or decreased occupancy, and upgrading the ventilation fans and controls for the growth rooms. Simple measures like sealing exterior doors and adding door sweeps were also implemented.

Water 2,500 m3/year
CO2 Prevented 600 tonnes
Electricity 2,300,00 kWh/year
Natural gas 1,700 m3/year
Deferred maintenance $400,000
Overall utility savings $205,000 per year


Lighting Retrofits (2011-2012)

The library had zone-based controls installed for the area lights. This allows "light-harvesting," i.e. making sure that ceiling lights near windows are off during bright daylight hours.

In MacNaughton, Zavitz and the J.T. Powell building, the T12 fluorescent fixtures were upgraded to high-efficiency T8 fluorescent fixtures.

MacNaughton HVAC Retrofits (2012-2013)

MacNaughton building's mechanical air systems were upgraded. This project was the fourth major undertaking by the energy conservation working group.