Public Sector


North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University

The Opportunity

Founded in 1910, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) was the first publicly funded liberal arts college for African Americans in the country. Today, this dynamic campus serves a diverse student body of 8,600 students enrolled in programs that span industries – from law, biotechnology, library science, business, nursing, education and the arts. Addressing a directive from the state of North Carolina in the mid-2000s to reduce rising energy demand and associated operating expenses in public buildings, NCCU began to assess opportunities to save energy across campus while engaging and educating students about the process.

The Partnership

Responding to an urgent call to action from legislators, state universities were mandated to reduce their energy consumption by 20% by 2012. NCCU took on this challenge by starting a partnership with OpTerra Energy Services (OpTerra) in 2010 to identify energy saving opportunities that could be implemented in a successful, short time frame. Aligning with other existing sustainability initiatives across campus, NCCU was able to leverage the technical energy upgrade program as a platform for two student Climate Corps Public Sector fellows to contribute their own research and recommendations on energy use reduction during this time period as well.

Starting with an in-depth energy assessment of campus energy use and existing performance needs, the OpTerra team crafted a comprehensive program that would help NCCU improve efficiency as well as promote ways to help the campus community continue reducing overall energy demand. OpTerra elected to focus on initial improvements related to addressing occupant comfort while ensuring that proposed construction would have minimal disruption to student and faculty services.

In tandem, NCCU’s Climate Corps Public Sector fellows conducted their own analysis of specific areas and buildings on site to recommend energy conservation measures that were both most cost-effective and easy to implement. NCCU analyzed the collected opportunities to improve efficiency of lighting, temperature and air control, building envelope insulation, natural gas usage, and renewable energy generation. The result of these tiered efforts was a comprehensive program that was built to save the university more than $10MM over the life of the project.

The Impact

As NCCU’s energy partner, OpTerra helped address NCCU’s goals to reduce energy consumption in support of the North Carolina Senate’s aggressive sustainability targets. Through the comprehensive campus energy program, supported by the North Carolina State Energy Office and State Construction Office, NCCU and OpTerra created a real-world learning opportunity for students to see sustainability come to life.

The Technical Scope

Primary infrastructure and energy conservation improvements included:

  • Construction of a new central steam plant with premium efficiency steam boilers and stack economizers, with minimum fuel-to-steam efficiency over 86%
  • Addressing original construction issues through extensive retro-commissioning and optimization at Mary M. Townes Science Complex
  • Critical improvements to the learning environments to increase occupant comfort and reduce energy costs through:
    • New energy management system
    • Air handling unit replacements
    • Variable air volume terminal replacements
    • Supply fan replacements
    • Pump replacements
    • Electrical and lighting upgrades
    • Steam coils
    • Insulation repair
    • Fume hood repairs
    • Heat exchanger replacements
    • Underground piping
Financial Outcome

  • Project Financial Benefits $6,378,706
  • Guaranteed Annual Savings $480,034
  • Construction Period Savings $533,733
  • Project Funded from Annual Savings
  • Over a 15 Year Guarantee Term