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UIUC student carbon footprint questions

Posted by Quinn Connolly on May 3, 2023

Hi Mr. Helmink,


My name is Kendall O'Keefe and I am a freshman at UIUC. I am a journalism major, and for one of my final projects for my reporting class we were instructed to write a series of three stories that have to do with a specific category. My category is history, and my final story is about how we preserve historic buildings on campus and what that mainly entails. I am focusing on the differences between Lincoln Hall, Altgeld Hall, the CIF, and the ECE. I emailed Robert Roman with some questions about energy sources in new buildings compared to older buildings, and he copied you on his response saying that you would have more information for me. If you saw that, I would love to email you a couple questions about energy/conservation in new buildings compared to older ones, and what changes are often made to historical buildings in order to make the energy there more preserved/sustainable. Let me know if this is possible, thank you so much!


Kendall O'Keefe





Please send your questions in.  Paul, I’ll want your help on this one.







Here are my questions:


How is energy conservation/sustainability in new buildings different from older ones?


New buildings typically have a much more inclusive portfolio of temperature control systems.  We can see all of the room temperatures and systems remotely from our command center.  Older buildings likely have aged pneumatic control systems with no remote visibility on whether these systems are working or not. We also typically have occupancy sensors in the newer buildings and we can tell how often a room is occupied or not and the HVAC system adjusts accordingly. Data trending is very important on the newer systems so we can see temperature trends over time and as well as airflow rates etc.   Lots of data to manage and store in computer servers.  The newer buildings are built to LEED, ASHRAE, and campus energy standards.  These have not always been around.

The building infrastructure and systems may be different as Karl pointed out, but energy conservation and sustainability are pursued the same across campus.

Noteworthy are heating and cooling methods have evolved to include heat recovery systems and chilled-beams for cooling.


What changes are often made to historical buildings in order to make the energy there more preserved/sustainable?


I’d  say that typically more insulation needs to be added to the walls and roof areas.  The R values in the wall of old buildings is astounding low. New windows get considered.  Steam systems get retired. More hot water is used.  The mechanical systems of the 1960’s thru 80’s are pretty inefficient.  We typically see energy reductions of 50% plus in these buildings.  We have a billion dollars of deferred maintenance on campus, there probably is not nearly enough money coming in fast enough to make upgrades.  Interestingly some of the older buildings with steam radiators and window air A/C units are some of the most efficient  buildings on campus.  People tend to shut off the window a/c units.

We are also working to incorporate clean energy systems in new building designs which helps with LEED and leaning toward net-zero such as in the ECE building.


I also would like to know how energy is managed in places like Altgeld and Lincoln compared to the CIF and ECE.


Not a lot different.   There is utility metering on each campus building that measures water, chilled water, steam condensate, electricity, and sometimes natural gas and hot water where needed.  The monthly data is reviewed and exceedingly low and high energy usage numbers are checked.  The CIF project is not out of the warranty phase yet I don’t believe. The project is still making adjustments up there, so this one is different, so far.


As Karl mentioned previously, technology makes it easier to monitor the new/upgraded systems and therefore we have more visibility when part of the system deviates from the setpoints or optimized building parameters. This helps catch maintenance items before they become costly problems or require more resources to resolve.

Thank you so much, I really appreciate your time!


Kendall O'Keefe


FYI  I’ll let Paul add to this as he sees fit.







Hello Kendall,


Let me start off by pointing out the obvious, but often overlooked!

Today’s lifestyle demands peak comfortability, access to the latest and greatest technology, and everyone wanting to be connected to everything worldwide instantly.

This statement alone drives intense energy consumption and often from antiquated inefficient systems.


With that understanding at hand, the older buildings were not designed to accommodate the requirements of newer technology and mechanical systems.

For example, the ductwork and fan sizing have a big impact on proper airflows and efficiency within the buildings spaces.

From a greenhouse gas perspective, we are looking more toward renovating older structures vs building new structures simply for the advantage of capturing the benefits from embedded carbon, not to mention reuse of natural resources and waste removal and recycling.


Regardless of the vintage, campus does it’s best to make sure everyone is comfortable, has all of the amenities and technology necessary to perform at university today’s fast pace.

P.S. See below in green font



Paul Foote




Thank you so much for your responses! They were extremely helpful to my story. If possible, I was wondering if you happened to know how much the annual power bill for the university is. I would also like to know what the current carbon footprint of the university is. Let me know if you can help me with these. Thank you again for all of your help!


Kendall O'Keefe



Hi Tony,

Can you share the information with Kendall?

See the beginning of the thread for who Kendall is and what she is looking to do with the campus utilities information.



Paul Foote





When you say power bill do you mean the total cost of generated and purchased electricity for the Urbana-Champaign campus?


On the carbon footprint question, I will need to check with our sustainability folks.