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Energy Conservation and Management Policy

The University is deeply concerned about the increasing pace and intensity of global climate change and the potential for unprecedented detrimental impacts. Furthermore, we understand that our greatest, most immediate opportunity to reduce our own impact is in reducing our fossil energy usage in campus buildings.

Extensive research shows that our campus uses 25-30% more energy per square foot than comparable campuses in our climate zone, and the vast majority of Brandeis’s emissions are caused by our building energy use. These facts, combined with the inextricable link between climate change and social justice, amount to a call to action for our community to greatly improve our approach to energy management.

We acknowledge and agree that campus as a place of work, and as a home to many of us, needs to meet reasonable standards of comfort to allow us to enjoy our time at Brandeis and to be productive. We seek to properly balance that essential goal with the critical goal of a reduced carbon footprint for the University.

The Energy Conservation and Management Policy outlines several ways in which our community must work together to improve our collective experience with our facilities in a way that is consistent with our commitment to sustainability.

Some highlights of the policy are below. You can download the full policy here.

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Building temperatures

The University recognizes that exact temperature control is not always possible given the varying level of sophistication and condition of our campus buildings. The goals of these indoor air temperature targets are to improve overall satisfaction with campus heating and cooling from current low levels of 40-50% based on the 2015 Campus Operations Survey, provided occupants are dressed appropriately for the space; to keep temperatures consistent; and to save energy by avoiding overheating and over-cooling.

Reports of temperatures outside these ranges should be directed to Facilities Services via an online work order request or by calling x6-4385.

Below is the summary of the target air temperatures and set points that the University will follow, with exceptions as detailed in the policy.

Temperature summary 

*Depending on the requirements of the individual space.

Space heaters

Space heaters pose serious fire and electrical hazards and are not energy efficient. They can trip electrical circuits in buildings, disabling power to building areas. The use of space heaters at the University is strongly discouraged. The University reserves the right to inspect and declare “unapproved” any space heater that creates a safety hazard or is inappropriate to a particular location, based on specific circumstances or legal requirements. If warranted, space heaters may be removed by Facilities Services and the owner must remove them from the University.

Addressing summer over-cooling: Several comments on the 2015 Campus Operations Survey indicated that freezing office temperatures during summer lead many occupants to use space heaters. Space heaters work against central air conditioning systems and can contribute to making the space colder. Warming your space to temperatures above the set point triggers the system to respond by cooling more. Thus, space heaters and air conditioning work against each other, and together cause even more energy use and carbon emissions. By controlling air conditioning temperatures better, we can achieve the combined benefits of using less carbon-intensive electricity; reducing our peak demand for electricity and the associated cost savings; reducing space heater usage during the summer; and improving occupant comfort.


1. All heaters must be Underwriters Listed (UL) or ETL Listed for their intended use.

2. Heaters must have a tip-over automatic-shutdown feature.

3. Heaters must be kept at least 3 feet (36 inches) from all combustible materials e.g., desks, trash cans, papers, boxes, fabric, plastics, office furniture, etc.

4. Heaters must be monitored when in operation.

5. Heaters must be plugged directly into a wall receptacle. Never plug a space heater into an extension cord.

6. No open-coil space heaters are permitted in any University buildings.

7. Space heaters of any type are prohibited in laboratories.

8. Always turn off a heater and unplug it when you leave the office. Never leave an operating heater unattended.

9. Before use, ensure that the heater is clean and not covered with dust. The cord must be in good condition and not frayed.

10. Never run a power cord under a carpet or floor mat.

11. Never use a heater where flammable materials or vapors may be present.

12. Do not place a heater in or near wet areas or in high traffic areas such as exit ways.

13. Inspect space heaters at least annually and have them repaired, as needed, by a qualified electrician. Heaters that cannot be repaired must be discarded with the plug cut off to prevent use by others.

14. Do not place space heaters near room thermostats.

All requests for exemptions to this policy in academic or office areas should be directed to Facilities Services via an online work order request or by calling x6-8500.

Vehicle idling

Idling vehicles pollute the air and present several health and environmental hazards. With thousands of residents on campus, it is central to the mission of the University to keep our campus population safe and healthy. Pollution from idling vehicles poses a direct risk to our population.

No vehicle on campus shall sit idling for longer than 5 minutes except in the case of snow removal, emergency operations, or the exemptions indicated below. This applies to faculty-, staff-, student-, contractor-, and University-owned vehicles and to shuttles. This is an extension of the policy the University first implemented in 2008 for all Facilities Services vehicles on campus.

This is also an extension of state law. Massachusetts General Law (MGL Chapter 90, Section 16A) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) idling reduction regulation (310 CMR 7.11(1)(b)) prohibit unnecessary vehicle idling by stating that the engine must be shut down if the vehicle will be stopped for more than five minutes.

Exemptions include: 1) the vehicle is being serviced and the idling is required to repair the vehicle; 2) the vehicle is making deliveries and needs to keep its engine running (to power refrigerators, for example); and, 3) the vehicle’s accessory equipment needs to be powered, such as a forklift or a truck’s rear dump bed, or a wheelchair lift in a bus or van. To provide additional protections for children, MGL Chapter 90, Section 16B further restricts unnecessary idling in school zones.

Impacts of vehicle idling

Gasoline and diesel vehicle tailpipes produce carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Carbon monoxide causes respiratory distress and in high concentrations can be lethal. Carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming, and VOCs and NOx form ozone and ground-level smog and impair lung function. In addition, diesel exhaust contains fine particulate matter, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated as a likely carcinogen. The elderly, chronically ill and children are all particularly vulnerable to these health effects, because their lung function is respectively decreased, impaired or still in development.


Individuals are expected to turn off lights upon exiting rooms and to turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and common areas, whether used by that individual or not. There is no place on campus where leaving lights on is more efficient than turning them off. 

The University maintains central control over lighting in only a select few buildings. The majority of lighting across campus is user-controlled.

Building emergency and safety lighting will always remain on, pursuant to safety codes. Occupants do not have control over safety lighting.

In commercial buildings, lighting can account for up to 30% of the electricity usage. Because the University does not have direct control over most lighting systems on campus via “smart” lighting controls, the community must act together to tackle the frequent problem of lights left on in unoccupied spaces. Individuals are expected to not only turn off lights upon exiting rooms, but to turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and common areas, whether used by that individual or not. Occupants do not have control over safety lighting. That means when you turn off the lights in an unoccupied space, building emergency and safety lighting will always remain on.


Windows should not be opened during the winter to cool spaces, nor in the summer to warm spaces. Windows and outside doors should not be propped open if a space is air conditioned.

Occupants should ensure that windows, storm windows, shades and blinds are positioned for the season. Shades and blinds should be positioned to assist in providing thermal comfort.

Windows should be closed when leaving spaces for multiple days, such as weekends and holidays.

Office and classroom equipment

Individuals are expected to turn off office equipment (including monitors, task lights, projection equipment and other, where possible) when leaving their workspace for more than 20 minutes and at the end of the day.

Occupants should enable power management features on computers, laser printers and copiers and power them down whenever possible, particularly on evenings and weekends.

LTS provides information on computer power management settings and how to optimize energy management on your computer equipment. Please contact LTS if you have questions or need assistance, online or at x6-7777.


Occupants should not block thermostats with wall furniture or equipment.

Individuals are expected to move any heat-generating equipment away from thermostats (lamps, computers, monitors, coffee makers, etc.). This equipment can cause false readings at the thermostat, resulting in inappropriate temperatures in building spaces.

Seasonally appropriate clothing
Building occupants are responsible for their own comfort, within reason. Occupants are expected to contribute to their own comfort by wearing appropriate clothing for their workplace.
Room reservations for meetings, conferences and events

The University’s heating and cooling system is automatically connected to the University’s room reservation system (R25). When spaces are reserved for events, those rooms are automatically heated or cooled prior to the event to prepare for the event, and are subsequently controlled for the duration of the event as reserved in R25.

All individuals with access to R25 for room reservations may not reserve space for periods when the space will not be in use. For example, spaces may not be reserved “just in case.” Doing so causes the HVAC system to heat or cool the space accordingly, and the resulting energy loss is significant. This policy applies to summer program activities, along with others.

Conference and Events staff will set lighting at minimal levels, preferably off, after room setup and before the start of an event. Individuals and groups that reserve spaces are expected to turn lights on fully when they begin to occupy the space. Full lighting may not be left on in unoccupied spaces after room setup, unless absolutely necessary.