Generating Positive Community Energy with Millersville University's Zero Energy Lombardo Welcome Center
Millersville University leveraged the positive energy performance, utility rebates and cost savings associated with its new zero energy Lombardo Welcome Center to establish a fund that supports community engagement related to advancing the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
Millersville University's Positive Energy Fund provides micro-grants (up to $2,500) for faculty, staff and student projects that raise awareness of the interconnected economic, social and environmental challenges confronting the world and accelerate local solutions to those challenges. The Fund was established using dollars obtained through utility rebates associated with the Lombardo Welcome Center’s energy efficient design as well as other campus energy efficiency and demand response projects. Applicants propose projects that will have a positive impact on the community using the Global Goals for Sustainable Development framework.
In the spring of 2018, Millersville University completed construction of the new Lombardo Welcome Center. Designed to be a zero energy building capable of generating its own energy onsite through renewable sources, the 15,000 square foot building features over 500 rooftop solar panels, solar glass along the rear exterior, a 20 panel solar array that tracks the sun, 20 geothermal wells, 3 rain gardens and a super energy efficient design.
In its first year, the Lombardo Welcome Center generated 75 percent more energy than it consumed, making it a positive energy building. The state-of-the-art zero energy building not only serves as a clear testament to our sustainability and carbon neutral goals, but, through its performance, directly funds community sustainability projects. Through the Positive Energy Fund, the building’s energy cost savings are redirected to provide micro-grants to faculty, staff and students so that they can address the interconnected economic, social and environmental challenges confronting the world using the Global Goals for Sustainable Development framework. The more energy we make, the more community impact we create.
Provide a new welcome center in the center of campus that would greet current and prospective students and University visitors with a vision of a sustainable future that builds upon a rich history of service to the community.
Operate the Lombardo Welcome Center as a zero energy building within the first year of its construction in support of the University’s carbon neutral goal.
Craft a mission-centered program around the welcome center that uses its unique features to further inspire and support the University’s existing community-building work.
Millersville began design of the Lombardo Welcome Center in 2015 and concluded construction in the spring of 2018. From there the University incorporated the Lombardo Welcome Center’s zero energy design into daily life through coursework, tours and other campus programs. Faculty from various University departments bring their students through the building to explore green building design and discuss topics such as energy policy, sustainability, and innovation. Millersville’s student ambassadors begin campus tours at the Lombardo Welcome Center, where they share information about the building’s sustainable features with visitors. The University’s Office of Sustainability, which is located in the building, provides tours to various community organizations. In total, 12,000 prospective students and their families visited the building in its first year and an additional 1,000 community members toured the building to learn about its sustainable features.
Millersville installed advanced energy monitoring devices throughout the building that are capable of monitoring energy use at 350 metering points. Touchscreen dashboards, located in the lobby provide real-time information on the building’s energy use and production for current students as well as orientation information for prospective students. The Office of Sustainability encourages energy-conscious behavior among the building occupants and monitors energy use on a daily basis. As a result, during its first year the Lombardo Welcome Center produced 75 percent more energy than it used.
Millersville used cost savings and rebates associated with the Lombardo Welcome Center’s strong energy performance to establish a fund that provides micro-grants to faculty, staff and students to advance the SDGs. Named after the fact that the Lombardo Welcome Center is generating more energy than it uses, the “Positive Energy Fund” seeks to raise awareness of the interconnected economic, social and environmental challenges confronting the world, as characterized by the SDGs, and to accelerate solutions to those challenges by Millersville University faculty, staff and students. Millersville established the fund using utility rebates associated with constructing the Lombardo Welcome Center as well as other campus energy efficiency projects and demand response activities. Because the solar panels and other sustainable features were funded through philanthropy, the energy produced by the Lombardo Welcome Center results in utility cost savings to the University that can replenish the fund in the future. Millersville established the fund this year, accepted the first round of applications and awarded $10,000 to support faculty, staff and student work in the community.
2015 - Lombardo Welcome Center Design begins
Spring 2017 - Construction begins
Spring 2018 - Construction ends. Move in and begin energy monitoring.
Fall 2018 - Millersville on track to be a positive energy building. Discussion begins regarding opportunities to leverage its performance to benefit the community.
Fall 2018 - Millersville University President approves establishing a Positive Energy Committee charged with creating a Positive Energy Fund and awarding projects.
Fall 2019 - Positive Energy Committee establishes initial $40,000 fund using utility rebates from the Lombardo Welcome Center's energy efficient design and other campus energy efficiency and demand response projects.
Winter 2019 - Positive Energy application period opens
Spring 2019 - First round of Positive Energy project awards made - totaling $10,000
Spring 2019 - Lombardo Welcome Center finishes first year of energy performance having generated 75% more energy than it needed to run.
Spring 2019 - Millersville University applies for zero energy certification with the Living Future Institute. Spring 2019 - University administration commits to contribute Lombardo Welcome Center's energy cost savings to Positive Energy Fund in future years, $25,000 annually.
The total cost to construct the Lombardo Welcome Center was $6.9 million. Gifts to the University covered all energy-related equipment such that the energy costs for the building are effectively paid for for the life of the equipment. This results in approximately $25,000 in utility cost savings to the University annually.
The Positive Energy Fund was established using a combination of utility rebates and demand response funds totaling approximately $40,000. The University awarded $10,000 of this amount in 2019 and planned to have enough funds to run the Positive Energy Fund for at least four years.
Upon successful completion of the first year of the Positive Energy Fund program and to celebrate the Lombardo Welcome Center generating significantly more energy than it used, the Administration decided to dedicate future energy cost savings to the Positive Energy Fund.
The Lombardo Welcome Center generated 75 percent more energy than it used during its first year and should receive zero energy certification with the Living Future Institute this summer.
Millersville University made the first round of Positive Energy awards to faculty, staff and students this year, totalling $10,000 to support community projects ranging from green infrastructure workshops with the City of Lancaster to creating pollinator gardens at local elementary schools, to developing mobile videos highlighting Lancaster County efforts to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.
Inspired by the SDG focus, the University created a touchscreen dashboard in the lobby of the Lombardo Welcome Center that organizes the University's majors by global goal. Prospective students are encouraged to explore potential majors beginning with the question, "What Global Problem will you Solve?"
Utility rebate programs are a valuable resource that can be used to acquire seed funds for various university initiatives...particularly among smaller institutions that don't otherwise have access to funds.
Creative use of utility rebates can generate interest and potentially attract additional funds in ways that classic efforts (e.g., reinvesting in additional energy efficiency projects) may not. This can be particularly true with smaller amounts that may not significantly impact capital-intensive projects.
Given the increasing challenges that higher education institutions face with respect to enrollment, budget, etc. universities, and sustainability offices/programs within those universities, may be responsible for their own flourishing. It is increasingly important to find ways to convert success into platforms for future success.
One of the most critical steps to achieving zero energy within buildings that are designed to be zero energy is to respond quickly to occupant issues. Resolving issues is perhaps the highest form of occupant engagement.
The Global Goals for Sustainable Development provide an invaluable framework for conveying the broad scope of sustainability to audiences that may be less familiar with the discipline.