Students and staff gather around and chat in green space with tall grass


Energy Efficiency

University Housing is committed to reducing energy use and emissions throughout our facilities. Various transportation, heating/cooling, and lighting initiatives allow Housing maintain and enhance energy efficiency.

  • LED lighting is prioritized whenever possible. In the last 5 years, over 40% of all lightbulbs in Housing buildings have been replaced with LEDs.
  • Rooftop solar panels at Gordon produce 42,800 kWh of electricity a year, or the energy use of five typical Wisconsin homes. See live data on the online dashboard.
  • Energy Star rated appliances are installed during remodels as standard practice to use approximately 20% less energy and 35% less water when compared to conventional counterparts.
  • The Leopold greenhouse energy efficient cooling system provides a comfortable working and learning environment for GreenHouse residents
  • Housing supports residents in using public and green transportation, especially the free 80 route offered on campus and the nearby Lakeshore Path
  • Bicycles are available for staff to use
  • Zipcars are accessible to University Apartments residents
  • Bicycle parking and maintenance stations are available to residents and staff
  • Efficient and low-speed vehicles are prioritized when purchasing new staff vehicles
  • Dining delivery vehicles operate on bio-fuel and follow a no-idling policy
  • Individual temperature controls in resident rooms allow residents to heat and cool space as needed. Energy efficiency guidelines are shared at move in.
  • Buildings are monitored by a computerized system to efficiently address heating and cooling issues that arise in buildings
  • Rooftop solar panels assist with hot water heating at Dejope and Leopold
  • Natural ventilation, fan coil units, and energy recovery wheels enhance efficiency and comfort in Chadbourne, Dejope, and Leopold
  • Resident room refrigerators are Energy Star rated with an estimated 207 kWh annual electricity demand
  • 90% of the boilers in University Apartments have been replaced with Energy Star boilers with 96% efficiency
  • Ventilation systems use MERV 13 or better filters (IAQ) which improve air quality and increase HVAC efficiency

Bike, take the bus, or carpool when you travel

When driving home for breaks, share a ride

Use a community ZipCar

Use energy efficient lighting

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) consume less energy and have longer lifetimes than Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and incandescent light bulbs.

Turn off lights and unplug electronics when not in use, especially when leaving for a long weekend or break. Appliances can still draw phantom energy if plugged in when not in use. Use outlet power strips for TVs, consoles, chargers, and other electronics to easily turn off several items at once.

Only wash full loads of laundry or combine loads with a friend

Use cold cycles and hang dry clothes instead of using the dryer.

Have an idea on how to improve energy efficiency in Housing buildings? Submit a proposal to the Green Fund. Many of the Housing energy saving projects mentioned (Gordon solar, LED lighting upgrades, and the Leopold evaporative cooling system) have been student-driven and supported financially by the Green Fund.


University Housing works to create and maintain facilities that enhance and promote sustainability. Green buildings, innovative interior design, and green cleaning are some of the ways Housing meets our sustainability goals.

In 2013, Leopold Residence Hall achieved Gold LEED certification. Leopold features a rooftop greenhouse, roof-mounted solar panels to heat water, and parking for more than 100 bicycles.

The construction of Leopold involved…

  • 88% of construction materials diverted from the landfill
  • 47% locally produced materials
  • 31% reduction in water run-off
  • Dual level lighting with daylight and motion sensors
  • an energy air exhaust recovery wheel
  • Our Upholstery Shop repairs furniture to repurpose items rather than landfilling them. Reupholstering furniture from Cole and Slichter dens saved an estimated $96,400 by repurposing instead of buying new.
  • Anything that no longer has a purpose in Housing locations is repurposed through UW–Madison’s Solid Waste Alternatives Project (SWAP) or donated to our list of 200+ partner non-profit organizations in the greater Madison area. This accounts for about 250,000 pounds of material diverted from landfill annually.
  • In 2017, Housing developed a website to streamline our furniture reallocation process, making it easier for staff and student to make requests. Housing now processes approximately 20 furniture requests each month to avoid purchasing new items.
  • Housing purchases flooring that uses sustainable dye methods, resulting in 2,087,360 gallons of water saved

University Housing follows green cleaning practices in all buildings maintained by University Housing as an ongoing commitment to the health of its residents, staff, and environment. Our goal is to use only cleaning products that are sustainable and meet EPA standards.

  • Our Lotus Pro water-based cleaning system is EPA registered and uses aqueous ozone to thoroughly sanitize and clean surfaces. Aqueous Ozone is Green Seal certified and helped Housing win a green cleaning award in 2013
  • Housing saves $30,000 year through the elimination of traditional chemicals from our cleaning practices
  • Other sustainable cleaning and operational products include
    • Ecos Pro Laundry & Dish soap
    • Seventh Generation products
    • Major Bathroom Cleaner (organic salts specifically created by Housing)
    • C.L.E.A.R. bowl cleaner (developed by Housing)
    • Eco-friendly Ice Melt
  • Housing purchases paper towels, toilet paper, and plastic bags made with recycled materials
  • Microfiber cloths and mops are used for cleaning instead of cotton or polyester products

With their close proximity to the campus natural areas and Lake Mendota, University Apartments supports and respects the environment.

  • No chemicals are used in lawn care unless mandated
  • No use of VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints to protect human and environmental health
  • No Mow/Low Mow areas are in place to recover natural prairie grasses
  • One of the largest and oldest community gardens in the country, the University Apartment Community Gardens hosts 500 plots for residents to plant and harvest vegetables and flower as well as compost. Many residents replenish their gardens with their own compost.
  • Tree removal occurs only when absolutely needed. If a tree has to be removed, two are planted in its place.
  • Eagle’s Wing childcare center integrates sustainability into their curriculum
  • Make your own cleaning solutions using natural ingredients
  • Instead of cleaning with paper towels, cut up old t-shirts and make reusable rags.
  • Use plants to purify your air and deodorize your room.
  • Upcycle materials to decorate your room

Water Conservation

Housing achieves water conservation through implementing sustainable infrastructure and storm water management systems.

  • 39 water bottle filling stations are available in Housing. Filling stations are located on the main floor of each building. On average, each station saves waste from 27,000 plastic water bottles a year.
  • Promoting reuseables, Housing provides each incoming residence hall resident with a reusable water bottle.
  • Dual flush and low flow toilets and other fixtures are prioritized to conserve water. These efficiency upgrades allow for about a 50% reduction in water use per unit.
  • Energy Star rated appliances are installed during remodels to use approximately 20% less energy and 35% less water when compared to conventional counterparts.
  • University Apartments manages two rain gardens and four bio-retention basins to protect Lake Mendota and surrounding habitats and animals by reducing runoff and pollution.
  • Hydration Stations are used at Housing events to reduce waste from single use plastic bottles.
  • Submit maintenance requests (residence halls or University Apartments) when you see leaky faucets, showerheads, and toilets (Housing residents and staff only).
  • Only wash full loads of laundry and use the cold cycle. Hang dry items.
  • Turn off the sink when brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Do not let the faucet run while washing vegetables or rinsing dishes.
  • Avoid using the toilet as a trash can (e.g. flushing tissues or other garbage).
  • Ditch disposables! Refill rather than buying bottled water.

Ten Years of Housing Sustainability

Starting in 2013, University Housing kicked off a new wave of sustainable priorities by hiring the first Sustainability Coordinator and forming the Housing Sustainability Committee. Since then, the Housing Sustainability team, often in partnership with the UW–Madison Office of Sustainability, has undertaken multitudes of projects, large and small, that positively impacted the footprint of our buildings and communities.

From opening Leopold Residence Hall, a LEED Certified building, hosting the annual all-campus Sustain-A-Bash, prioritizing recycling and landfill diversion at residence hall move-in and move-out, to installing solar panels on the roof of Gordon Dining & Event Center, we’ve been busy making sure we are the best stewards we can be.

Read the Full Report

Graphic with sustainability initiatives in 2021