2015 Finalist: Power to the People

The greatest percentage reduction in building energy use.

Who led the charge

Mark J Howe                    Program Manager



Howe oversees the 2010-2015 CU Energy Conservation Initiative (ECI), a program of re-commissioning, studies and conservation projects throughout the Cornell University Ithaca and Geneva campuses. Prior to managing the ECI, he led the Energy Conservation Controls Team in the Cornell University Control Shop and before that provided design services for Facilities Engineering.


  • Be able to articulate multiple benefits to achieve greater buy-in

  • Identify key actions for achieving your most important conservation and sustainability goals

Kroch Library Energy Conservation Initiative, Cornell University


Collections, its heating, cooling and ventilation systems must efficiently maintain specific temperature and humidity levels to protect its contents. So when the University launched the Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2010, it included significant retrofits for the library.

Among other objectives of $33 million energy conservation initiative led by Program Manager Mark Howe, the CAP replaced a chiller-based dehumidification system with heat-generated desiccant technology and provided a new dedicated outdoor air handler. And by connecting the building to the local chilled water system (Lake Source Cooling), the library conserves energy and taps the deep cold waters of nearby Lake Cayuga as a renewable resource.

In an exceptional act of resourcefulness, the CAP team averted any drastic fluctuations in the rare book vault’s temperature and humidity by scheduling for times when outdoor weather conditions would more closely approximate typical vault conditions.

The efforts have paid off with much more stable environmental conditions in the collection spaces, which are likely to extend the life of the collection materials.

"This project has the triple benefit of reducing energy use, addressing deferred maintenance and increasing occupant comfort."


CLOSE UP: Cornell University Kroch Library

What did we do?
Upgraded Kroch Library’s environmental control systems.

Why we did it: 
To reduce energy use and create a better environment for preserving rare books and manuscripts.

Our Approach: 
The team conducted engineering study, developed facility improvement measures and crafted significant retrofits to address a deferred maintenance issue.


  • Paid for itself in 3.9 years (versus the original 7.4 year-estimation)
  • Accrued savings of $308,000 (double the expected payback)
  • Compressed air handling unit’s construction time from eight weeks to three weeks