Energy and climate change

Waterloo Central Campus Aerial

Climate change is one of the most pressing sustainability issues, and will require significant, coordinated effort to address. Waterloo's buildings and equipment are a major source of emissions, and the campus is taking action through a series of programs and investments guided by the Shift: Neutral climate and energy action plan.

Supporting SDGs

SDG 7 - clean energy SDG 12 - responsible consumption and production SDG 13 - climate action 

Shift: Neutral

In 2020, Waterloo approved its first climate and energy action plan - Shift:Neutral. This action plan provides a roadmap for the University to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. It also includes:

  • A target of 17.5% reduction by 2025, from 2015 levels
  • A target of 35% reduction by 2030
  • List of action areas and policy recommendations for implementation

Read the Shift:Neutral climate and energy action plan

Learn about our progress through interactive data

Shift Neutral over campus skyline


    Climate Emergency Declaration

    In June 2021, the University of Waterloo joined thousands of communities and organizations around the world in declaring a climate emergency. This declaration reflected on the growing seriousness and urgency of climate change and on Waterloo's role in addressing climate change across teaching, research, operational practices, and partnerships.

    Read the Climate Emergency Declaration

    Aerial shot of east campus

    Building Standards

    In Fall 2021, Waterloo approved energy and emissions performance standards for the development of new buildings. The University has historically shadowed LEED Silver design, and occasionally pursued certification, as it did for the LEED Platinum Certified Environment 3. The new building design guidelines emphasize passive design and strict energy efficiency targets.  

    - Read the Net Neutral New Building design guideline on the Secretariat's website

    - Learn more about the LEED Platinum Certified Environment 3

    LEED Platinum Environment 3


    Energy Efficiency

    Waterloo has integrated energy efficiency measures across campus through various projects and programs. These vary from building to building, but include lighting retrofits, server upgrades, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems, daylight and motion sensors, and energy recovery ventillation (ERV).

    Renewable Energy

    UWaterloo has two solar panel arrays operating on its South Campus. The first was installed in 2003 on Federation Hall through the Solar Technology Education Project as a demonstration.

    In 2011, the university also installed a 60 kWh solar array on top of Environment 3.

    See the EV3 Solar Generation dashboard

    Solar panels on Environment 3

    Energy Audit

    In 2020 and 2021, the University of Waterloo worked with external auditors to conduct a review of campus buildings, to better understand the use of energy throughout the campus, and to identify opportunities for efficiency improvements.

    The auditors conducted an ASHRAE Level 1 audit of all campus buildings, with a representative sample of six buildings receiving a more detailed Level 2 audit. The findings improved understanding of how energy moved through the campus, from its sources through end-use. It also generated a list of hundreds of energy conservation measures, from behaviour change to lighting to equipment upgrades that would reduce energy consumption and emissions.

    University staff are prioritizing identified projects for implementation.
    Guage on utility pipe

    District Energy

    Waterloo's central plant is a district heating and cooling system that supports most of South Campus. It produces steam and chilled water to circulate among campus buildings. This system is more cost efficient than individual boilers and air conditioners in each building. Additional energy-saving measures include:

    • Heat recovery systems to improve boiler efficiency, saving an estimated 2 million cubic meters of natural gas annually 
    • Pipe insulation to reduce heat loss
    • Variable speed pumps in the central plant saves 205,000 kilowatt hours of energy

    Aerial view of district energy central plant