Oberlin College’s Sustainable Infrastructure Program

distribution work begins Wilder Bowl
Distribution work begins for phase 1 in Wilder Bowl
The Sustainable Infrastructure Program (SIP) is focused on upgrading the century-old heating infrastructure serving campus to a hot water system. This work will enable a large-scale geothermal system, add cooling to buildings, and implement other building improvements that will increase student and faculty comfort year-round. These improvements are the tangible outcomes of Oberlin’s earlier commitments to the American College and University Presidents’ Carbon Commitment and the 2025 carbon goal.
 
We celebrate the accomplishments from phase one of the project with the entire Oberlin community. In 2021, construction focused on South Campus where 13 buildings have been upgraded and nearly 25,000 linear feet of new heating and cooling pipe has been installed. Buildings that are fully converted to the new system are expected to be 30 percent more efficient. Additionally, these buildings will have local controls for greater occupancy comfort, expanded fiber networks, expanded fire protection capabilities, and upgraded mechanical and electrical systems. As the project progresses over the next three years, these improvements will extend throughout campus. View photos from phase one work.  

OBERLIN COLLEGE AND CONSERVATORY SECURES $80 MILLION IN CERTIFIED CLIMATE BONDS FOR SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM 

Exciting news for the SIP initiative, this Bond enables Oberlin to take the next major steps on this four-year project to build the new energy infrastructure and geothermal energy system for the campus. The Certified Climate Bonds status verifies alignment with the goals and targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Read more about this major project milestone.

SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM WILL TRANSFORM CAMPUS OVER NEXT 4 YEARS

This year, an exciting phase of campus work is underway to help Oberlin College reach its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. This infrastructure modernization project is critical to making campus more sustainable and resilient. It also means lots of activity on campus to upgrade our infrastructure, make buildings more efficient, and connect geothermal as the carbon-free source for heating and cooling. Visit our FAQ for more information.

Read President Ambar’s message to the community about this project

SIP Construction Updates

Phase two construction will start in summer 2022, and the team will resume regular updates on the project at that time. 

Keep up with construction information on our activity updates page.

Or sign up for updates.

Via Text – Text “JOIN” to 440-340-7570

Via E-Mail – Subscribe here

Previous Information Session Recording

Project information sessions were hosted in spring 2021, with presentations about the Sustainable Infrastructure Program and how it will lead Oberlin College closer to its goal of a carbon-neutral campus by 2025. 

View session linked below from May 26 or see the info session slides for more information. 

 

Building for Our Future

Oberlin College is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. To reach this goal, Oberlin College leadership has been working to identify renewable alternatives to fossil fuels and create more efficient ways to deliver and use energy on campus and in the community.
Oberlin Distribution

Moving Forward with Purpose

  • Increasing the reliability of the energy system
  • Reduces the energy and carbon profile of the campus and connected community partners
  • Creates opportunities for more renewable and carbon-free energy sources
  • The system can be expanded to serve the community
  • Significantly decreases water losses
  • Financial savings over time that can be invested in other programming

Considering Ways to Decarbonize

Achieving carbon-neutrality for the campus relies on three types of improvement: 1) improving building and system efficiency – to reduce the energy needed for the campus; 2) improve the distribution of energy – primarily through switching from steam to hot water distribution; and 3) connecting carbon-free sources. Earlier in 2020, it was decided that a carbon-free future for Oberlin College would depend on the transition to a hot water system. Learn more about why these systems are better in the FAQ.

In 2019, nine different low-carbon or carbon-free sources were reviewed as options to serve the campus. These included two types of Geoexchange—aquifer thermal energy storage and geothermal, biofuels, biogas, biomass, capturing heat from power production using landfill gas, and incorporating either solar or wind production with electric boilers. These scenarios were compared to what is known as a business as usual scenario, which looks at more traditional energy production with fossil fuels, which is the primary approach for serving Oberlin’s heating and cooling today.

These options were thoroughly vetted, with consideration for environmental impact, greenhouse gas emissions, financial impact (short and long-term), and ease of integration into existing campus systems. Geothermal was selected as the best carbon-free source option for Oberlin College. 

ADVANCING THE SYSTEM WITH HOT WATER DISTRIBUTION

Connecting buildings on campus and in the community through district energy, is an efficient and reliable way to deliver heat to buildings. The original system was built in 1913, using steam, but now modern systems are using hot water to increase efficiency and connect more carbon-free energy sources. For Oberlin to achieve its carbon neutrality goals, it is time to make the switch.

Neighborhood Benefits

Developing this new district energy system together creates the opportunity for Oberlin businesses, nonprofits, schools, and other partners to utilize the best available technologies to deliver reliable energy that is less dependent on fossil fuels, but also economically competitive.

Additional Resources

Carbon Neutrality Partners

Ever-Green Energy has been a partner to Oberlin College since 2015. Ever-Green led the 2016 Carbon Neutrality Implementation Plan for the Oberlin campus with an emphasis on energy and water utilities and has recently led implementation of the planning recommendations, which include design of the campus conversion from steam to hot water, verification of the optimal carbon-free energy supply strategies, utility organizational planning, development of financing strategies, and continued campus and community engagement.

Community Partners

Design, Construction, and Planning Partners