Huston-Tillotson University

At a Glance


College or University

Project Types

Commercial Energy Efficiency, Clean and Renewable Energy, Data Analysis, Sustainability and Energy Management Strategy




Austin, TX

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Net Present Value:


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Annual kWh Savings:

200,000 kWh

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Annual CO2 Reductions:

165 metric tons


Phoebe Romero investigated potential energy and water efficiency savings for Huston-Tillotson University.


Huston-Tillotson University aims to become the most sustainable historically black university in the nation. With 1,023 students, this is a bold goal for a small school. Nonetheless, with the help of a previous EDF Climate Corps fellow, the University approved plans to install a 260 kilowatt solar PV array and is already ahead of its American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) target of reducing carbon emissions 25 percent by 2018. In the summer of 2015, Huston-Tillotson turned to Phoebe Romero to evaluate ways that the University could conserve water and continue saving energy.


When Romero arrived on campus, the University was using potable water for landscape irrigation. It also was controlling everything manually and had no formal way of tracking use. These two things struck Romero and her supervisor as opportunities for improvement. Using non-potable water would be cheaper and more sustainable, and finding a way to automate the controls would save employees valuable time. Romero did some research and found that a smart, weather-based irrigation system could provide data-tracking software to help facilities staff assess leaks and irregularities. Similarly, The University of Texas at Austin was able to reduce its irrigation water use by 66 percent by using this type of system.

Knowing that saving water saves energy, Romero looked into efficiency opportunities for heating and cooling systems. She found that solar thermal water heating could save energy, and a blended air conditioning condensate and rainwater collection system could conserve water. Since the University had no formal way of tracking its total energy or water consumption, Romero created an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account for Huston-Tillotson, allowing the institution to have a free environmental management system. Creating this account yielded a nice surprise; after completing its solar PV installation, Huston-Tillotson’s residence halls will likely qualify for ENERGY STAR certification. Furthermore, while the University has gained positive press from its enthusiastic student group “Green is the New Black™,” full campus engagement is still a work in progress. By establishing a Farm-to-Work program on campus, creating a sustainability work-study position and pursuing Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its gymnasium renovation, the University could gain engagement from both students and staff.

Potential Impact

If Romero’s recommendations are implemented, the University could reduce its potable water use by over 2 million gallons annually and cut irrigation use by more than 50 percent. As a whole, Romero’s projects have a payback of less than two years and could save over 200,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, nearly 930 million BTUs and more than 165 metric tons of carbon emissions annually.

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