University modernizes with energy-efficient solutions

Self-funded improvements net energy savings and boost comfort on the Brenau University campus.


Brenau University, a women’s college located in Gainesville, Ga., is noted for its preserved buildings and picturesque grounds. However, behind the scenes there were major issues related to its environmental systems. Courtesy: ABM IndustriesBrenau University, a women’s college located in Gainesville, Ga., is noted for its preserved buildings and picturesque grounds. However, behind the scenes there were major issues related to its environmental systems. 

With no money in its budget for replacement equipment, Brenau turned to ABM Industries to help create a strategy for energy-efficiency improvements. Dr. Wayne Dempsey, Brenau’s executive VP and CFO, was confident in the positive results that could be achieved because he had implemented ABM’s bundled energy solutions (BES) during his tenure in the same role at another college. (For more information about the application of ABM’s BES program in upgrading a university property, see the video, “ABM/Linc Columbia College BES Client Video,” published by Columbia College in Columbia, S.C.) This approach would allow the university to use existing funds to pay for major improvements, including new heating, air conditioning, controls, and lighting systems. 


Though it had tried to repair and maintain its legacy systems, Brenau was losing ground in reducing its deferred maintenance backlog. Traditional means to raise the capital needed to upgrade these mission critical systems, including raising student fees or engaging in a charitable campaign, were not options, making Brenau’s financial challenges very similar to those experienced by many of ABM’s private university and college clients. 

To confront these challenges, ABM devised a strategy based on its BES program that drives costs out of its clients' operating budgets to allow savings to be reallocated to fund mission critical facility needs. First, the firm conducted comprehensive design engineering to formulate an optimal energy efficiency solution using HVAC systems, controls, and high-efficiency lighting.  ABM’s engineering analysis identified significant operational savings that Brenau could use to fund the proposed energy improvements. 

Improvements net results 

ABM installed an energy monitoring system, including linear regression software to analyze utility bill data such as usage costs, kilowatt-hours used, kilowatt demand, and natural gas use to determine baselines for comparative analysis. The regression models compare operating costs between installing improvements and leaving the facility “as is.” These models include weather data because weather has a large impact on heating and cooling expenses, and in turn allows ABM to present more accurate findings. 

Improvements included new HVAC systems, controls, and lighting for 13 university buildings. The library, where temperature and humidity is critical, received all new rooftop air conditioning and controls designed to address humidity concerns. Other buildings that were modernized include a performing art auditorium, pool, dining hall, and several dormitories. Also, a very inefficient central plant boiler was decommissioned and replaced with heating units in the individual buildings, resulting in significant utility savings. 

The installation phase took approximately 9 months and was fully completed in early 2008. ABM has guaranteed the cost savings, and the results are being monitored over 10 years. As a result of the changes, Brenau now has better control of its buildings and can focus on project management rather than repairs. Quarterly energy audits have shown savings every quarter since the program was implemented. Each year since project completion, Brenau has experienced a minimum of: 

  • $300,000 in energy and resources savings
  • 27% decrease in total energy use
  • 10% kWh electricity savings resulting in a 1,000,000+ kWh reduction for each of the last 4 years
  • 84% reduction in water usage (approximately 8 million gal annually)
  • 46% savings in natural gas.  

With a zero budget impact, Brenau’s campus is now more comfortable for its students and faculty. The modernization has allowed Brenau to focus its precious capital resources on programs and resources that are focused on achieving its strategic plan.

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