"It all adds up." To anyone involved with the University of Minnesota's sustainability efforts, this has become a familiar phrase. To Ann Lundholm it's a full-time career.
As the sole statistician and data analyst with Energy Management for the Twin Cities campuses, Lundholm adds up the numbers each day to find out how much energy the university is consuming. And, with more than 200 university buildings across Minneapolis and St. Paul, she has plenty of numbers to crunch.
"Energy Management is essentially a utility company for the university," Lundholm explains. "Our first mission is to provide all utilities to the buildings, but then we figure out how to use it in the most cost-effective and energy-efficient way possible."
Lundholm started the job in 2007 and spent the first 18 months helping to implement a remote metering system. Up until then the crew had to walk around with clipboards every month to read the meters. This not only required a good deal of time, but also some perilous treks through the underground steam tunnels.
"It was a huge project that involved a lot of poking around in mechanical rooms, trying to find 400-plus steam and chilled water meters, figuring out how they were connected, and then working to validate the data," says Lundholm. "But now those systems work pretty well and I have a lot more time to do data analysis."
Thanks to the custom-built software, which was developed by university programmers, Lundholm can compare data and performance trends, meter by meter or scaled up to the buildings as a whole. Before and after each improvement project she provides data to a team of engineers to show if they're making progress.
Clearly they are. Since Lundholm came on board and started tracking the metrics, the university's carbon footprint has decreased and energy consumption has been trending down, despite the fact that new buildings are going up. In the past six years Energy Management has identified almost $8 million in annual energy consumption savings that can be achieved through building system projects.
Lundholm also assists with the university's budgeting process, helping to make predictions on how energy has been used in the past and how it will be used in the future.
"Sustainability isn't about cutting things or denying them," she says. "It's about saving money. It's about being smarter with the energy we already have."