Financial Incentives Towards the Purchase of Efficient Equipment at CU Boulder: Connecting Scientists With Their Overhead Costs While Benefiting Campus Energy and Water Conservation

Kathryn Ramirez-Aguilar, University of Colorado Boulder
Ellen Edwards, University of Colorado Boulder

For more than 5 years, Facilities Management at CU Boulder has been offering financial incentives towards the purchase of energy and water efficient, stand-alone laboratory equipment through a program managed by the CU Green Labs Program. The incentives can be applied to equipment purchases that will replace existing, inefficient equipment or that will be a new addition to the lab. One of the greatest benefits of this program is that it financially connects scientists with their overhead costs and gives them a financial reason to care about the energy and water consumption in their lab. University scientists, especially those in principal investigator roles, often think about direct costs such as researcher salary, expenses for supplies, and equipment costs because they manage budgets for those expenses. However, university scientists do not manage budgets for the overhead expenses which are also necessary to support their research such as costs for energy, water, internet, building maintenance, custodial services, hazardous waste disposal, grant administration, etc. As a result, scientists are often disconnected from designing laboratory research in a manner that will minimize overhead costs, including energy and water consumption. In this presentation, we will describe this incentive program in more detail including how incentives are calculated, examples of the types of equipment that have received incentives, the source of the funding for these incentives, and why CU-Boulder Facilities Management sees benefits in supporting this program, especially from a campus and building infrastructure perspective.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the range of reasons why CU Boulder is offering an incentive program for energy and water efficient research equipment;
  • Learn about the partnerships that are making this incentive program possible and the source of the funding;
  • Learn how the incentive program is managed and examples of equipment that have qualified for financial incentives; and
  • 4. Understand the benefits and challenges that are faced with implementation of this program.


Kathy Ramirez-Aguilar has a doctorate in Analytical Chemistry and 15 years of laboratory research experience. She manages the Green Labs Program at CU Boulder which utilizes a campus-wide, team approach to conservation in labs and involves partnership with scientists and many other campus units with connections to lab research. She is also dedicated to the Bringing Efficiency to Research (BETR) Grants effort aimed at connecting efficient resource use with research funding from sponsors.

Ellen Edwards has a degree in Architectural Engineering. In addition to working as an engineer and being a partner in a mechanical contracting company, Ellen has also worked as a Utilities Analyst for Facilities Management at a local university in the Kansas City area, as an Energy Engineer with a national energy services company, and an Energy Program Manager with Sprint Real Estate. She is presently the Energy Manager at the University of Colorado Boulder.


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