Energy & Sustainability Initiatives

Building on the success of Columbia University’s first sustainability plan, CUIMC is launching several ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets under Plan 2030, the University’s second sustainability plan that spans from 2021 to 2030. Learn about some of the changes we have implemented and how we are already making a difference. 

Energy Initiatives


To comply with Local Law 88 and to permanently reduce carbon emissions, CUIMC completed several lighting upgrades in its facilities.

  • Facilities replaced incandescent and fluorescent lighting fixtures in administrative and academic buildings with high efficiency LED fixtures with controls and saved 1,921 MWH or 1218 metric tons of carbon emission. We also converted the lighting to LED in every laboratory and office space located in the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Building.
  • Local utilities provided 56% of the total project cost as incentives, which led to a payback of fewer than two years for CUIMC.
  • We also partnered with the Office of Housing Services to install LED lighting fixtures in 400 apartments.

Through these collective efforts, the amount of energy we saved equals the power consumed by 157 single-family homes in the United States for an entire year.  Learn how these efforts translate into cost savings.

Campus-Wide Gas Savings

In 2019, we audited all of the steam traps and steam pipe insulation needs across our building portfolio, and identified several projects that could reduce the medical center’s energy consumption.

  • We completed most of the steam pipe insulation projects with a return on investment of fewer than eight months, reducing 70,400 therms or $62,000 dollars from the core utility budget.
  • CUIMC received an impressive 80% of the project cost as rebates and incentives from the local utilities for completing these projects.
  • Similarly, we identified an additional 200,000 Therms in savings to be completed by April 2021, which cover both insulation and steam traps. 

Ultra-Low Efficient Freezer Exchange Program

Engaging stakeholders is vital to achieving substantial energy savings. CUIMC's research laboratories are incredibly energy-intensive.

  • As a pilot program, we partnered with the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Office of Research, the CUIMC Procurement Office, and Con-Edison to promote energy-efficient freezers for laboratories throughout the campus.
  • The pilot program completed its goal to replace 25 out of 500 freezers.
  • Lessons learned from this pilot program will help us replace all freezers at CUIMC in the coming years. 

For more information and for questions on purchasing high-efficiency freezers, visit the freezer exchange program website.

Energy Technical Review Meetings (TRM):

We instituted an internal technical review meeting between our Engineering and Capital Project Management teams to ensure all new designs and installed equipment meet the highest energy efficiency and sustainability standards. Some examples of measures include HVAC, lighting, water conservation, and waste management.

Fuel Switching

Over the years, we have diligently moved away from using No 2 oil as a fuel source for heating.

  • Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, Lasker Biomedical Research Center, and Irving Cancer Research Center's tariff moved to 100% natural gas from an interruptible tariff.
  • Simultaneously, 100 Haven Avenue’s plant, which supports Towers 1, 2, and 3 as well as 50 Haven Avenue, switched from using No 2 oil as a primary source to natural gas in 2015, thereby reducing the overall carbon emissions at each location. 

Sustainability Initiatives

LEED Building Certifications

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely recognized and respected green building rating system in the world. LEED-certified buildings represent the very best in sustainable building design, construction, operations, and maintenance.

Sustainable Workplace Certification

Started by Columbia University's Environmental Stewardship Office, the Workspace Certification Program comprises a checklist of all the possible actions schools and departments can take to support the University's sustainability goals.

  • Columbia University School of Nursing received consecutive platinum awards for sustainable workplace certification under Sustainable Columbia's Sustainable Leaders Network.
  • There are currently only two Columbia schools with this status—the School of Nursing and the Columbia University School of Professional Studies. 

EV Charging Stations

As part of Columbia’s sustainability plan, Plan 2030, Columbia has committed to expanding electric vehicle charging stations in its garages as means to spur its driving commuters to transition to electric vehicles. Additionally, in 2022 Columbia announced its plans to gradually transition Columbia-managed parking areas for use by zero emission vehicles only, phasing out access for internal combustion engine vehicles such as gas and diesel vehicles. The phase-out in university-managed space is expected to begin between the years 2030 and 2037 in an effort to meet the university’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. Learn more about Columbia's zero emission parking areas.

At CUIMC, We increased the availability of free electric vehicle charging ports from three to 11 over the last four years. In order to install additional chargers in the future, we also completed electrical infrastructure upgrades at Irving Cancer Research Center’s parking facility.  

Bike Racks

We instituted a bike rack management and augmentation plan to support the biking needs of the medical center’s students, faculty, and staff. 

  • We expanded bicycle parking capacity to 183 spaces and have identified an additional 72 spaces for future expansion
  • We installed printed signage featuring QR codes that direct individuals to a web-based map listing all existing CUIMC bike rack locations at each bike location to prevent overcrowding or underuse. 
  • Two bikes repair stations are currently available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  • In 2020, we partnered with CitiBike and gave away more than 200 free annual memberships to CUIMC essential workers. 

Trash and Recycling

To reverse course and improve recycling collection, we adopted trash and recycling standards in line with the Morningside campus.

  • We initiated a pilot program at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Building in which new bins and signage were installed.
  • Lessons learned from the implementation will be used to expand the program throughout the campus