Iowa State University nameplate

Inside Iowa State
Gold bar
April 27, 2001

Cost-saving proposals include energy conservation, winter shutdown

by Diana Pounds
An expanded campus-wide energy conservation program will begin this spring in response to anticipated university budget cuts next fiscal year. Other cost-saving measures under consideration are a winter break shutdown that includes five unpaid days for faculty and staff, layoffs and flexible work schedules that reduce departmental expenses.

During an April 20 monthly briefing of departmental officers and other campus officials, interim President Richard Seagrave and other university administrators discussed a variety of proposals to help the university absorb an anticipated multi-million-dollar cut in state funding next fiscal year.

Seagrave said he anticipates a $16 million to $24 million cut in state funding to Iowa State, effective July 1. The governor and Legislature have not yet agreed on a budget. It appears it will be several more weeks before the level of state appropriations is known and a university budget can be completed and approved by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.

Several priorities will help guide planning and cost-cutting, Seagrave said. Those priorities are to maintain:
  • Services to students (particularly, undergraduates).
  • Activities that affect enrollment.
  • Momentum in hiring excellent and diverse faculty.

Energy conservation
Additional energy conservation measures will begin on campus in May and will include thermostat adjustments in buildings and appeals to the campus community to help conserve by shutting off unneeded lights, computers and equipment. Such efforts may result in savings as high as $1.5 million annually, vice president for business and finance Warren Madden said.

A large part of the savings – as much as $750,000 – is expected to come from notching thermostats up or down a few degrees. In all buildings, except those with special requirements for research, thermostats will be set to 78 degrees during the daytime in the summer and 68 degrees during the daytime in the winter.

Operating hours will be established for buildings, and heating and cooling systems will be adjusted after hours and on weekends. Building comfort levels will be significantly affected in many buildings after hours and on weekends, possibly as much as 10 degrees. Night classes and meetings will be scheduled in "activity centers" – buildings with extended operating hours.

"We'll need cooperation across campus to make these savings a reality," Madden said. "In some older campus buildings, it's impossible to achieve consistent temperatures throughout, which means that some occupants will be in areas that are warmer or cooler than average. If individuals readjust thermostats, or use their own heating or cooling devices, we won't save money."

Energy savings well beyond those netted from thermostat adjustments are possible, if departments and individuals pull together to cut energy use by turning off lights, computers, printers, coffee pots and other equipment that are not in use, Madden said. Researchers can help by turning off unneeded fume hoods, lasers and growth chambers.

"These items add up," Madden said. "We'll save about $115 annually for each personal computer and monitor that are turned off during evenings and weekends, $58 for a laser printer or fax machine, $216 for a copier and $4,250 for a fume hood."

Altogether, conscientious energy-saving by the campus community might save an additional $500,000 annually, Madden added.

Facilities staff intend to net another $250,000 in savings by increasing efficiency in systems that deliver utilities to buildings.

Winter break shutdown proposed
Officials also are considering a winter break shutdown from Dec. 22, at the conclusion of graduation, through Jan. 2. The shutdown would include five unpaid days for virtually all university faculty and staff (with the exception of a few staff to keep essential services running). Employees would be paid for the three holidays that occur during this period. University officials estimate the campus closure would reduce individuals' annual salaries by approximately 2 percent and save $4.5 million. Officials expect to be able to offer faculty and staff a payroll program that would spread the pay reduction over several months rather than just over December and January.

"We need to research possibilities more carefully, especially as this proposal may be influenced by the AFSCME collective bargaining agreement," Madden said.

He estimates the total cost savings of the winter break shutdown would be about $4.75 million. During this period, only essential services would continue. The library and other campus facilities would be closed. Minimizing snow removal and other services also would reduce costs.

Layoffs possible
Energy-saving measures and a winter break shutdown would translate to possible savings of about $6.25 million.

"The challenge is much greater than that – somewhere between $16 and $24 million," Seagrave said. "Some layoffs seem inevitable, but if required, they will be implemented in consideration of the university's strategic priorities, and within the policies and procedures the university has for faculty and staff reductions."

The university will follow its established policies regarding notification and assistance to laid-off employees to seek other employment, he added.

"If necessary, these actions are unfortunate," Seagrave said. "But they reflect the reality of the state's revenue reductions."

Flexible work schedules
As the university community looks for ways to cut costs, Madden said department and unit heads will be encouraged to explore voluntary employee proposals for flexible work schedules or reductions in work assignments – for example, a request to move from full-time to three-quarter or other part-time employment. An employee may work one or more days from home, which could save lighting, heating or cooling an office. This offers limited savings, but may improve morale and productivity in light of the budget reductions.

Seagrave and other university administrators are seeking input from all staff and other university groups about ways to deal with significant budget reductions, while minimizing the impact on university programs, students, faculty and staff.

Turn off nights/weekends

Annual savings

personal computer




laser printer






fume hood (electric costs only)


fume hood (full costs)


window AC


full-size refrigerator


window AC


space heater


coffee pot


light fixture


drinking fountain


... Becoming the Best
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
Copyright © 1995-2001, Iowa State University. All rights reserved.