Sustainability at Reed

Buildings and Grounds: Management of Energy, Water, and More

Reed's Facilities Services tracks energy usage as it impacts Reed's carbon footprint. It seeks to properly maintain and operate equipment to reduce consumption without compromising environmental comfort. They compare the amount of energy used on an annual basis to determine how efficiently the campus is operating over time. The college implements multiple strategies to obtain efficient use and strives to continue to find opportunities to reduce energy consumption on a square-foot basis by making mechanical improvements, sequencing operations, and controlling strategies for optimum performance.

Reed partnered with Ameresco for a comprehensive three-year energy use audit. As a result, Reed committed $5.4 million to implement changes to minimize energy use by maximizing equipment life and altered building management. Changes resulted in verified savings of $283,000/year for electricity, water, and natural gas.

Reed participates in PGE's Energy Partner Program. This is a demand response program in which participants reduce or shift energy use for a few hours when demand is high—usually hot summer or cold winter days. Using less energy during these times decreases the need to buy more expensive power to meet that demand, which helps keep energy prices lower for everyone. In 2020, we shifted 18% of our energy load, using less energy when others were using more.

Commitments to sustainable practices in Reed buildings are evident in the following:

  • All building mechanical systems are linked through a central computerized energy management system for optimum natural gas savings 
  • Low-voltage lighting, time clocks, motion detectors, and light sensors minimize electricity use 
  • Low-flow nozzles on sinks and showers and low-volume toilets in restrooms ensure efficient water use 
  • Considerations for lifetime efficiency in building materials and mechanical systems for new construction and upgrades
  • Limits on the use of air conditioning (78°F/summer) and heating (68°F/winter)
  • 3% of our public purpose charge invested in clean wind initiatives
  • Use of a central boiler plant and steam tunnel for efficient heat delivery
  • Regularly scheduled preventative maintenance program for mechanical equipment
  • Use of variable frequency drives (VFDs) for new mechanical installations and replacements to increase efficiency and reduce motor load and operating costs
  • Conversion from pneumatics to all-digital controls
  • Research on energy-effective procedures and equipment upgrades
  • Treatment of boiler water with minimum chemistry and best recovery
  • Deaeration and maintenance of line conditions for optimum operation of the central steam plant
  • Use of only low-VOC paints
  • Use of natural gas in fire tube boilers that can burn oil for backup capacity when gas is curtailed
  • Use of biodiesel in campus boilers when required to use alternative fuel to natural gas  
  • Use of biodiesel in grounds equipment
  • Use of synthetic oils for vehicles, mowers, and tractors owned by Facilities Services
  • Use Buckeye Eco cleaning products, which are safer for the user and the environment, by cleaning crews

Reed's Facilities Services monitors our water usage to confirm we are using it wisely. The college is fortunate to have the premier water rights on Crystal Springs, which allows us water for irrigating our 116-acre campus. This not only results in water cost savings, but also avoids reliance on the city water supply. 

Stormwater management is a major concern in Portland. It rains 154 days out of the year, averaging just over 39 inches annually. Stormwater has to be transferred by an underground pipe system and goes to rivers and streams, eventually to the Willamette, then the Columbia, and eventually out to the Pacific Ocean. During high-rain events, the Willamette and Columbia rivers can exceed flood stage, causing significant erosion and other problems. Creating swales and other stormwater facilities that slow water down and keep it on site is essential in diminishing downstream flows. Reed has stormwater facilities on site that manages almost all the rain that falls on campus.

A campus-wide drain mapping project was completed in 2012. It was determined that most of the drains on Reed campus lead directly to the canyon. Unwanted contaminants can potentially follow the same path. The predominant pattern of the drain systems has a group of drains collected to one outfall. These outfalls are generally north of their field of drains. Most drains have a trap within them that collects about two or three gallons of substances lighter than water before discharging into the canyon. However, water-soluble contaminants bypass the trap system and discharge immediately. As a result, drain blocking mats were purchased and stored near all drains on campus for fast emergency access and response.

Examples of Building-Specific Efforts

Trillium Residence Hall

  • LEED Platinum
  • Solar panels on the roof (106.4 kW array)
  • Passive heating/cooling
  • Stormwater capture

The Grove Residence Halls (Sitka, Sequoia, Bidwell, and Aspen)

  • LEEDS certified
  • A thermostat in every room with a system that is able to heat one room as it cools another
  • Motion detectors in dorm bathrooms to start and stop fans and lights
  • Heat harvested from parts of the dorms where it is not used is delivered to other spaces in the building as needed, without consuming more energy
  • 50% reduction in irrigation water use over conventional landscape design by using turf with low water needs and native landscaping, aligned with efforts to restore the canyon
  • Rainwater runoff collected and naturally filtered as it flows through a bio-swale toward an existing spring, helping to mitigate flooding issues in the Johnson Creek basin
  • Efficient low-flow water fixtures and dual-flush toilets to conserve water
  • Building commissioned by a third-party commissioning agent to ensure it operates as designed
  • Energy-efficient design through triple-pane, Low-E glazing and the City Multi heating/cooling system
  • Cooling loads minimized with passive ventilation strategies
  • Maximized access to daylight and views to minimize electric lighting loads
  • Construction practices expected to recycle at least 95% of construction waste
  • Building occupants protected by low-VOC sealants, paints, carpets, and wood products
  • High level of attention to indoor environmental quality and occupant comfort
  • Low-flow water fixtures

The Performing Arts Center

  • Radiant heated concrete floors in the atrium for higher energy efficiency
  • Passively ventilated atrium
  • Recycled materials and finishes
  • Natural lighting for reduced power usage and occupant well-being
  • Operable windows for occupant comfort
  • Occupancy and daylight sensor-controlled lighting
  • Manual window shades
  • Water bottle refill stations at drinking fountains for convenient hydration while reducing dependency on plastic water bottles
  • Daylight sensor-controlled window shades
  • Eco-roof with 100% Oregon native and indigenous plant species
  • FSC-certified and rapidly renewable bamboo amphitheater, flooring, and railings
  • 126Kw solar array installed in 2019 with a PGE grant covering 80% of the installation costs
  • LED lighting
  • Low-emitting paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, and carpet for better indoor air quality
  • 100% on-site stormwater management, including rainwater from Kaul
  • On-site irrigation water source (Reed Lake)
  • Salvaged wood from fallen campus oak tree
  • Low-flow restroom fixtures
  • Motion sensor-controlled restroom faucets and hand dryers for reduced water and energy consumption
  • High-performance glazing (low emissivity with UV protection)
  • Earth Advantage Certification from Energy Trust of Oregon
  • Solar panels on roof (123 kW arrays)
  • Daylight sensor-controlled lighting


  • New sensors triggered by carbon dioxide have been installed in buildings, such as Kaul Auditorium, to activate the heating system when people arrive. The sensors can measure the number of people in the room by the carbon dioxide they exhale and adjust the air intake accordingly.
  • Solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Theatre Annex to offset its energy consumption and that of the two warehouses, the Birchwood Apartments, the Reed College Apartments, the Health and Counseling Center, 28 West, and the Farm, Garden, and Canyon houses.