Energy and climate change

Waterloo Central Campus Aerial


  • Develop a long-term Climate and Energy Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050

  • Implement cost-effective and practical strategies to reduce or minimize growth in energy use on campus

Supporting SDGs

SDG 7 - clean energy SDG 12 - responsible consumption and production SDG 13 - climate actionBlank image for spacing 

The University understands the importance of climate change and is committed to taking climate action. Academically, we are rising to the challenge of finding solutions to the most pressing sustainability issue facing our society. Our Interdisciplinary Centre for Climate ChangeWaterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy, and Master of Climate Change are just some examples of the research and curriculum on campus. From an operational perspective, the University is working on a number of projects and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while benefiting from cost savings, cleaner air and a healthier environment.   

Completed and ongoing projects include:

Green building standards  |  Renewable energy  |  Lighting upgrades  | SHARCNet upgrade  |  Central Plant  

Green building standards

University of Waterloo has made a decision that, where possible, all new buildings on campus will be designed to meet LEED Silver criteria. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a rating standard to ensure environmental performance indicators are included in the design, construction, and ongoing operation of buildings.

Environment 3 was built in 2011 and certified as LEED Platinum, the highest designation available within the LEED system. Visit the Faculty of Environment web site for a list of all ENV 3 features, and check out the video below.

Renewable energy

Solar hot water heaters on the roof of Conrad GrebelUWaterloo 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 solar array on top of Environment 3. These new panels generate approximately 67,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually.

In 2011, Conrad Grebel students also installed a solar hot water array to improve the efficiency of the university-college. The project aimed to reduce gas usage by 14% and mitigate approximately 2 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

Lighting upgrades

Many lights across campus have been upgraded to more efficient ballasts and lamps. Several recent projects include:

  • Engineering buildings: a 2015 lighting retrofit reduced energy consumption by over 400,000 kilowatt hours
  • East Campus 4: a 2015 lighting retrofit reduced energy consumption by over 61,000 kilowatt hours

Retrofits are conducted on an ongoing basis, and any new buildings or renovations are mandated to have high-efficiency lighting installed.

Several buildings on campus also have occupancy sensors, which automatically turn off lights if there is nobody using a space.

SHARCNET upgrade

Screenshot of SHARCNET case study

In 2012, the University of Waterloo partnered with Waterloo North Hydro to upgrade the Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET) servers. The project was designed to minimize energy consumption, save costs, maintain capacity, and reduce the burden on Waterloo's Information Technology team.  

The project was expected to reduce educed energy consumption by 95%, saving 2.2 million kilowatt hours per year and over $220,000 annually. Read the SHARCNET case study.

Update: After implementation it was found that the savings were even greater. The project saved over 4.1 million kilowatt hours per year!


Central Plant

Central Plant stackWaterloo'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 (see the local Climate Action Plan for details)
  • Pipe insulation to reduce heat loss
  • Variable speed pumps in the central plant saves 205,000 kilowatt hours of energy