Energy > Energy Efficiency

An energy audit will identify opportunities for cost savings through efficiency improvements. In the absence of (or in addition to) an audit, consider implementing the suggestions in the sections below.

The federal government’s Energy Star program offers many technical resources to help your department reduce its energy use:

For a list of energy efficiency incentives and rebates in your state, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) framework for colleges and universities to help measure their sustainability performance. STARS recommends considering any of the following energy conservation and efficiency technologies or strategies:

  • Building temperature standards
  • Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting
  • Occupancy and/or vacancy sensors
  • Passive solar heating
  • Ground-source heat pumps
  • Co-generation
  • Building recommissioning or retrofit program
  • Energy metering and management systems
  • Replacing energy-consuming appliances, equipment and systems with high efficiency alternatives
  • Energy-efficient landscape design (e.g. the placement and selection of shade trees and wind breaks and the use of vegetation and reflective materials to reduce heat islands)
  • Vending machine sensors, lightless machines, or LED-lit machines


There are many things that you can do to increase the energy efficiency of your sports facilities. The tips below are a useful start.

  • Buy Energy Star-rated appliances, electronics, lighting, and HVAC systems. For product categories that are not rated by Energy Star, consult the Federal Energy Management Program’s procurement guide.
  • Seal leaks in the building envelope
  • Increase insulation, especially along windows and above ceilings
  • Lower the temperature on your thermostats
  • In the heating season, keep shades on sun-facing windows open during the day and closed at night. In the cooling season, keep shades on sun-facing windows closed during the day
  • Install programmable thermostats
  • Lower the thermostat on your water heaters
  • Properly insulate hot water storage tanks
  • Replace single-pane windows with double-pane Energy Star-rated windows
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescents

Calculate savings from energy efficient products.

For more on reducing your facilities’ energy use, consult with your energy suppliers and local Public Utilities Commission, and visit the pages below:


>> In 2010, University of Minnesota Athletics staff partnered with UM’s energy management department to complete an energy recommissioning study of eight existing athletic facilities. The study revealed so much energy-saving potential that energy conservation measures were implemented in all eight athletic facilities, yielding more than $412,000 in avoided utility costs annually for Minnesota Athletics. Many of the upgrades had payback periods of less than one year. For example, though TCF Bank Stadium was the newest building on campus in 2010, the operations team still saved over $130,000 from recommissioning.

“Some of the original controls’ programming and design used more outside air on non-event days, thus increasing our steam consumption. We took a detailed look at our sequencing and partnered with the energy management’s team to identify those variations and modify mechanical automation controls accordingly, resulting in savings for the facility of $131,000 in energy costs each year,” says Derek Hillestad, director of operations at TCF Bank Stadium.

To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> The University of Connecticut’s Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R. Shenkman Training Center became the NCAA’s first LEED-certified building when it was completed in the summer of 2006. UConn Athletics achieved LEED Silver certification for the football complex by incorporating a variety of environmentally preferable features into the venue design. The energy-efficient features have helped the facility cut energy use by 35 percent below 1999 ASHRAE standards, saving $35,000 to $40,000 per year. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> In 2008, University of California, Berkeley upgraded the Recreational Sports Facility Field House lighting system to reduce energy use, lower maintenance costs, and provide better lighting in the gyms. Throughout the Field House, existing light fixtures were replaced with high-efficiency, high-output fluorescent lamps and transformers, which were equipped with occupancy sensors that switch off lights automatically when an area has been unoccupied for 20 minutes. Energy use was cut by 252,000 kilowatt-hours per year for a savings of $25,000 annually. The total cost for the lighting improvement project was approximately $114,000, 80 percent of which was covered by a grant from Pacific Gas and Electric. Thus, the net cost was $23,000, which was recouped in less than a year. The reduction in energy use also removes the equivalent of 132,000 pounds of CO2 per year from the air. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.


>> The Miami HEAT’s energy efficiency initiatives have enabled the AmericanAirlines Arena to consume 53 percent less energy than the average facility of similar size and use, according to Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager. This saves the HEAT $1.6 million each year.

 “We spent $1,594,309 during the 2008 calendar year. If we ran the AmericanAirlines Arena at the current national average, we could potentially be spending approximately $3,010,000 annually on energy consumption each year,” explains Jackie Ventura, operations coordinate for the HEAT Group.

To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> Between 2007 and 2012, the St Louis Cardinals have cut Busch Stadium’s energy use by 23 percent—down to 161.2 kBtu per square-foot from 211.8—after normalizing for weather. This saved the team more than $300,000 in energy costs between 2007 and 2010. According to EPA EnergyStar, this puts Busch Stadium at an energy performance level that is 39 percent better than the national average for entertainment buildings (265 kBtu/sq. ft./year).

“When it comes to stadiums and sustainable operations, reducing energy use is the place to start,” says Abernathy. “The cost of energy to run a stadium is typically 15 to 20 percent of our total stadium operations budget. So when we were able to reduce our energy use by 23 percent, it had a significant impact on the bottom line—for us, saving up to $150,000 annually. It all starts with knowing what your energy consumption is.”

To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> Through numerous energy efficiency efforts between 2006 and 2011, the Seattle Mariners have saved approximately $1.5 million in utilities costs (electricity, natural gas, water and sewer) by reducing natural gas use by 60 percent, electricity use by 30 percent and water use by 25 percent at Safeco Field. The team replaced its old incandescent bulb scoreboard with a new LED scoreboard, which lowered annual electricity consumption by more than 90 percent (from 1.2 million kilowatt-hours to 130,000 kilowatt-hours) and reduced energy costs by $50,000 per year. Energy initiatives have resulted in an average annual energy savings of $298,500 per year, with savings as high as $350,000 per year, compared with expenditures in 2006.

“It was all low-cost, easily achieved things,” says Scott Jenkins, former VP of ballpark operations, “mostly better use of automation, better discipline in turning things off when they’re not being used, really low-cost stuff like aerators on faucets, weather stripping on doors, some upgrades on the controls. And lo and behold, that $100,000 I wanted to save turned into $275,000 in the first year.”

To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.


Student involvement in sports greening initiatives can reduce demands on staff time and departmental resources. Student involvement can also help attract support from facilities, athletics, recreation, campus administration, and other departments. The following idea is one example of a task for students to conduct in your sports facilities. This preliminary student project could help facilitate interest in implementing energy efficiency upgrades across all sports facilities. Consider encouraging interested students to do the following:

Lighting Facilities Audit:

Complete a walkthrough audit of lighting types, sensors and uses throughout all sports facilities. Identify and map current all lighting with automatic sensors. If possible, also map all installed CFL and LED lighting. Check each to confirm all sensors and lights are working. Flag any faulty lighting or sensors. Identify floors or entire facilities without sensors and suggest locations for installing sensors. Consider writing up a business plan to encourage installing additional lighting sensors. Also record automated interior or exterior lighting that is on an inappropriate times. Write up a suggested lighting schedule to improve the lighting efficiency across necessary sports facilities.

Visit the relevant page in this guide for more ideas for Student-Led Project Ideas.


Electric power plants are the country’s largest industrial source of the pollutants that cause global warming, acid rain, and mercury poisoning in lakes and rivers. For most sports departments and institutions, energy consumption is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global climate change.

By conducting an energy audit, your department can identify ways to reduce its consumption of fossil fuels and its emission of greenhouse gases, as well as other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (causes acid rain), nitrous oxide (creates ground level ozone and causes respiratory disease), mercury (poisons streams and lakes and causes neurological damage), and fine particulate matter (causes respiratory disease).


Conducting energy audits of your sports facilities can help your institution earn points within the “Energy” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). It can directly contribute to earning 6 points for the credit “OP 8: Building Energy Consumption.” Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.


AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)
AASHE STARS 2.0 Technical Manual
Commercial Office Building Best Practices
New York City – Manual for Quality, Energy Efficient Lighting
Environmental Benefits and Cost Savings Calculator for Purchasers
Energy Star Savings Calculators
Energy Star Building Manual
Energy Star Building Manual: Lighting
Energy Star Building Manual: Financing
Energy Star Building Manual: Air Distribution Systems
Energy Star Building Manual: Heating and Cooling
Energy Star Building Manual: Investment Analysis
Energy Star Building Manual: Financing
EPA – Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator
EPA – Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency