BGSU recognized for excellence in utility management

BGSU has been recognized as a leader in the measurement, allocation and management of utility costs. The Central Association of College and University Business Officers (CACUBO) has awarded the University and Bob Swanson, associate controller, first place in the organization’s Best Practices competition for 2015.

Swanson’s winning submission was titled “Effectively Measuring, Allocating and Managing Campus Wide Utility Costs.” He has been invited to present at the Best Practice session at CACUBO’s annual meeting this October in San Antonio, where “other universities and colleges will be able to learn more about the Bowling Green State University success story,” according to CACUBO.

The association began the Best Practices Program in 2007 to showcase and reward the efforts of college and university business officers in creating improved, more efficient and customer-friendly business processes.

 

Faced with tightening budgets and escalating utility costs, BGSU pioneered a project to identify and validate existing utility mapping of meters and to model utility consumption for each facility on campus not directly metered. The result was a clearer understanding of the cost and consumption of utilities, which has led departments to invest in utility conservation measures that have had a material effect on the University’s overall utility expense.

“With utilities representing such a significant, and growing, operating cost on campus, it was important that everybody focused on ways to significantly improve our energy efficiency and increase our conservation efforts,” said CFO Sheri Stoll. “Bob’s project provided a tangible way for energy costs or savings to directly impact responsible department or auxiliary budgets, which drives everyone to care about efficiencies and conservation benefitting both the University overall and the students we serve.”

With 165 buildings on a campus that is undergoing extensive renovation, accurately monitoring utility usage and — in the case of the self-supporting auxiliaries like dining services and residence life — charging units appropriately for usage is a challenge, Swanson said. “But I like the complicated ones,” he said good-humoredly. Swanson developed a plan to use standard engineering models to accurately measure and manage utility consumption and charges, even for facilities like parking lots that do not have their own meters. The plan comprises accounting, the auxiliaries, design and construction, and campus operations.

“An awful lot of colleges out there are struggling with these energy management issues,” he said. “This gives a way to approach a problem so you can make better projections and have a more fair distribution of expenses. It also helps raise awareness and encourages conservation.

“I orchestrated it, managed it and put the final results together, but it took the efforts of a lot of people across campus. Everyone did a great job,” Swanson said of the 18-month project.

Among those leading efforts were Matt Rubel, coordinator of energy management in facilities services, who also worked with the city to get BGSU’s meters certified; Duane Hamilton, director of electrical and mechanical systems for campus operations and a longtime proponent of energy conservation; Dr. Bruce Meyer, assistant vice president for campus operations; and Dan Lemmerbrock, manager of the Data Hub and Resource Center in the Office of Design and Construction, who worked on utility mapping so future projects can be tied into the system.

Swanson has had considerable experience with complex systems, having worked as a CPA in private industry and manufacturing, plus for over 26 years in the Ohio Air National Guard engineering squadrons leading electrical, mechanical and structural engineering projects worldwide.