University's heating and cooling systems work to save energy


The recently built McCourtney Hall is LEED certified.

As the seasons change and outdoor temperatures fluctuate, faculty and staff may notice temperature variations indoors, especially when a room has been unoccupied for a while. The Utilities and Maintenance departments ask the campus community to give heating and cooling systems time to adjust, especially at the start of the workday. To be prepared for such times, they suggest keeping a sweater on hand or wearing layers.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how the University’s heating and cooling systems work to conserve energy and why.

Informed by the University’s Catholic character and inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, Notre Dame established several strategies to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions. In 2010, the University set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent per gross square foot by 2030, and by 83 percent by 2050, with the ultimate goal of becoming carbon neutral. So far, the University has reduced emissions by 45 percent since 2005, and is on track to reach these goals years ahead of schedule.

To achieve its carbon emission reduction goals, the University engages in many energy conservation measures including modulating the heating, cooling and ventilating systems (HVAC) in campus buildings. 

For instance, heating and cooling temperatures are typically set back during hours when facilities are normally unoccupied, such as during weekends and evenings. When buildings are closed, the temperatures can vary between 60 to 85 degrees. Buildings constructed in recent years, including those that are LEED certified, have spaces and rooms equipped with sensors that modulate heating and cooling according to occupancy. When unoccupied, space temperatures may range from 67 to 78 degrees. Within minutes of the space becoming occupied, the temperature should typically return to a range of 70 to 75 degrees.

 The temperature standard or set point is a fundamental component of the University’s comprehensive energy conservation program, which has reduced energy usage in existing buildings by nearly 20 percent. These measures, along with other conservation tactics, have contributed to the University’s 45 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from the 2005 baseline year. 

Digital temperature sensors and thermostats in new or renovated buildings are managed by Utilities and Maintenance to follow the University’s temperature standards. If faculty or staff believe the HVAC system is not working correctly, they may contact the Work Control Center at 631-8888.

Every member of the Notre Dame community has a role to play in conserving electricity, water and other resources on campus. The University thanks faculty, staff and students for contributing to the University’s emissions reduction goal. 

Read more about the University’s Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy and review thermostat FAQs on the Office of Sustainability’s website: