Governor recognizes WMU renovation for reducing energy waste

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of WMU's Heritage Hall.

WMU's Heritage Hall

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's Heritage Hall renovation has won a 2016 Governor's Energy Excellence Award for the success it triggered in reducing energy waste, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced Aug. 11 in East Lansing.

The 1905 facility, which is WMU's birthplace, was selected as Best Public Project for work that included, among other things, the installation of new ground source heat pumps; update of plumbing fixtures, faucets, and flush valves; and the addition of new HVAC and lighting systems. Heritage Hall is a 110-year-old facility that had become an energy hog before renovation. All in all, WMU expects changes made during the renovation to prevent the equivalent of 124.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

"Reducing energy waste will be a critically important part of an energy policy that will preserve Michigan's comeback and protect our wonderful natural resources for decades to come," said the governor in making the announcement. "The individuals and organizations honored today should be proud of their innovative efforts, and I encourage all Michiganders to take the necessary steps to be more energy efficient."

The award for Best Public Project, one of eight honors announced by the governor, recognizes energy-saving projects completed in the previous year by public sector entities, such as universities, school districts and municipalities. Finalists in the category this year were Eastern Jackson Community Schools and Parchment School District. Honorable mention went to Michigan State University.

About Heritage Hall

Photo of WMU President John M. Dunn with a dedication plaque for Heritage Hall.

WMU President John M. Dunn poses next to the dedication plaque in Heritage Hall.

Heritage Hall underwent a 16-month renovation, beginning in 2014 and reopening in October 2015.  The work took the original building from being the least energy efficient building on campus to one of the most efficient and environmentally sophisticated buildings in the region.

"Winning the award is a recognition of the hard work that Western Michigan University has done over the years to demonstrate its commitment to being a good steward of our natural resources and to modeling sustainability and energy conservation for the next generation of leaders," said WMU President John M. Dunn of the award. "We've taken a historical and architectural jewel that was also the least energy efficient structure imaginable and turned it into one of the most energy efficient buildings in Southwest Michigan."

Before its renovation, the 53,000-square-foot Heritage Hall had no insulation, no central cooling and utilized campus steam for heating. A series of chimneys throughout the building functioned only to permit fresh air to circulate in the building. A significant part of the renovation included asbestos and lead abatement.

Today, the facility is heated and cooled by 56 geothermal wells using 50 percent less energy than more traditionally heated and cooled buildings. In addition, 100 percent of ventilation air goes through a heat-recovery unit. Energy efficient LED lighting was also installed leading to a 60 percent reduction in energy used for lighting.

The Christman Co. was the construction firm that oversaw the transformation. The project's architectural design and engineering was done by Tower Pinkster. Helping to ensure the project retained the historic character of the building was historic preservation expert Gene Hopkins from Hopkins Burns Design Studio of Ann Arbor. The entire effort was done to meet LEED-Platinum certification standards.

About the award

The Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards recognize Michigan organizations and individuals for their commitment to responsible energy consumption. The awards are supported, in part, by a grant from the Michigan Energy Office with funding from U.S. Department of Energy. Other event sponsors include CLEAResult, Consumers Energy, DNV-GL, DTE Energy, SEMCO Energy Gas Co., Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics and the Dow Chemical Co. More details on the awards program and information about finalist projects in the public sector and other categories are available at

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