Millersville University (MU) has the first building in Pennsylvania, the Samuel N. and Dena M. Lombardo Welcome Center, to be Zero Energy Certified by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). Zero Energy certification requires that a building generates more energy than it uses on a net basis over the course of a year, onsite using only renewable energy sources.
“At Millersville University we are committed to sustainability and to the goal of pursuing carbon neutrality by 2040,” says Dr. Daniel Wubah, president of Millersville University. “Our students are at the forefront of our efforts; we have Student Sustainability Ambassadors, our Student Government Association includes a Student Sustainability Committee and many of our faculty weave sustainability issues throughout their curriculum.”
During its first year of operation from 2018 to 2019, the Lombardo Welcome Center generated 204,391 kWh of electricity, 75% more energy than it used. The center achieved an energy use intensity (a measure of energy efficiency) of 25 kBtu/square foot/year. This is 70% more efficient than an average university building (84.3 kBtu/sf/year) https://portfoliomanager.energystar.gov/pdf/reference/US%20National%20Median%20Table.pdf.
The significant energy surplus places the Lombardo Welcome Center among the top five most positive energy buildings in the U.S. that are certified by the ILFI.
“We were able to achieve this high level of performance despite the fact that 2018 was the wettest year on record,” says Chris Steuer, sustainability director at Millersville. “Millersville University’s Weather Center recorded 61 inches of rain in 2018, 50% more than the average year for records going back to 1914. And, remarkably, on the second coldest day of the past year (Jan. 21), when average temperatures were 12 degrees, the Lombardo Welcome Center generated more energy (576 kWh) than it used (555 kWh) because the day had clear blue skies allowing plenty of light to hit the array.”
The Lombardo Welcome Center features over 500 rooftop solar panels, a geothermal well field, energy-efficient lighting and HVAC, a ground-mount solar array that tracks the sun and solar glass along the rear exterior wall that is capable of generating electricity.
The full cost of the Lombardo Welcome Center’s sustainable features accounted for about $925,000 of a $6.9 million dollar budget. “While the solar panels would pay for themselves within their lifetime, they are already effectively paid for due to contributions by donors, including Samuel and Dena Lombardo,” says Steuer.
Additional donors include the Steinman Foundation and Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority.
Because donors covered the cost of the energy-generating systems, the avoided utility costs (approximately $25,000 annually) represent a cost savings to Millersville University. Millersville put these savings, and the money from utility rebates associated with the building’s energy efficiency, into the Positive Energy Award that supports student projects that help the surrounding community.