A Learning Program at the Siemens Ingenuity Center

During the Spring Term, Second Nature in partnership with Siemens hosted a half-day program for finance, facilities and sustainability professionals at Chicago-area campuses. These campuses each face unique sets of challenges and opportunities as the decision makers try to realize climate commitments. As buildings and campuses grow more complex, opportunities to leverage new, and existing, technologies and approaches expand.

Selected participants in Second Nature’s Spring 2019 Program in Chicago, hosted by the Siemens Ingenuity Center

Held at the Siemens Ingenuity Center about 20 minutes north of O’Hare Airport, the campus leaders discussed their institution’s journey toward achieving its climate commitment and senior staff from Second Nature and Siemens shared some of their knowledge on new developments and sources of intellectual support and assistance.

Nearly all campus upgrades are done in partnership with external service providers. Recent accomplishments with respect to buildings and/or with building technologies included metering of 90% of the buildings at the University of Illinois-Chicago, full-scale geothermal at UIUC and the College of Lake County and a variety of energy upgrades for the old urban infrastructure at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Overcoming the biggest challenges in order to make changes or upgrades often required getting institutional buy-in from multiple stakeholders or a transition to new leaders who had aligned interests. As one might expect, projects with a quick positive-cash return often rose to the surface and were implemented first, despite the risk aversion of certain parties within a campus (such as procurement, contracting or legal).  Also, some nay-sayers were concerned about adopting technologies due to questions about the long-term viability of newly-established service providers or the durability of new products from long-standing firms.

Some concerns could be overcome by working with multiple on-campus stakeholders on a 3-5 year roadmap for technology upgrades both within individual buildings and throughout the campus.  While many individual units had plans, the renewal of an institution-wide Climate Action Plan created an opportunity for input from representatives all across the campus. Some of the campus representatives also mentioned the role of students in pushing for action.

The program in Chicago is one of a series of in-person peer-to-peer workshops that Second Nature is hosting at locations around the country in 2019.  A summer program in Boston is being developed in partnership with Engie, and we are also exploring a regional event in the Pacific Northwest for this fall.

For additional information about new solutions available from Siemens, please visit their higher ed webpage: usa.siemens.com/HigherEd.