SUNY Oneonta has entered a partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) to retrofit the college’s Ford Hall, a 213-bed dormitory, as a net-zero energy building. This conversion will be the first of its kind within the state university system and will serve as a prototype for SUNY.

“A net-zero building is one that generates all its energy onsite, producing as much energy from non-fossil fuel sources as it consumes each year," said SUNY Oneonta Chief Facilities Planning and Safety Officer Lachlan Squair. “The Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy already have embraced building retrofits. With the Ford Hall project, SUNY Oneonta will join these innovators and move SUNY closer to the forefront of net-zero technology.”

NYSERDA and DASNY anticipate that the retrofit approach applied to Ford Hall can be duplicated. This would allow SUNY to bring net-zero carbon use to nearly 500 residence halls throughout its 64 campuses.

“It’s an exciting project,” said SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris. “The work done at Ford Hall will advance our Chancellor’s goal of bringing all SUNY campuses to net-zero carbon emissions and also contribute to the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gasses.”

Sustainability is one of the four themes of Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson’s vision for the university system. In January, SUNY and NYSERDA signed an agreement to support the development of facility-wide plans to achieve New York state’s greenhouse gas reduction goal of 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels, highlighting opportunities where SUNY can lead by example.

SUNY Oneonta’s Ford Hall retrofit will allow industry teams to develop techniques for future projects, which will convert residence halls to net-zero while students safely remain in the buildings. Lessons learned during the project will help lower the costs of future retrofits as the conversion techniques become readily reproducible.

“The scalability of this work is its real promise,” said Squair. “What we’re starting at Ford Hall ultimately will impact campuses and communities statewide in the years to come."