Million dollar loan pool funds green upgrades

Six years ago, Iowa State launched a program to encourage colleges and departments to make energy-saving improvements. The Live Green Loan Fund offers units interest-free loans for energy-saving projects that pay for themselves in five years or less.


The fund has proved popular, says director of sustainability Merry Rankin. It has funded or partially funded such green efforts as:

  • Energy-saving features (lights, thermostats, heating and cooling ducts) added to a remodeling project at the Monona County Extension office. (Loan: $5,230)
  • Two ambitious College of Design projects to retrofit classrooms, labs and public areas with energy-efficient light systems. (Loans: $100,000 each)
  • The installation of efficient lighting, occupancy sensors and power strips in the Black Engineering building, along with efficiency seminars for building occupants. The result was a nearly 9 percent drop in energy consumption over a four-year span. (Loan: $100,000)
  • Equipment for a dining services pilot program to compost food waste. The pilot led to composting in all residential dining facilities. (Loan: $45,000)
  • Installation of an interior wall and door in the former entrance to the Bergstrom Indoor Training Facility. The installation significantly reduced heat loss and utility costs for several years, but had to be removed when the facility was expanded to include the Bergstrom Football Complex. (Loan: $6,000)
  • Installation of a software system in the College of Human Sciences that could remotely put idling computers and monitors into sleep mode or shut them down. Energy savings were readily apparent under the original system installed in 2009, and the college continues to save with an upgraded power management system. (Loan: $3,039)
  • A change in construction plans that placed an efficient geothermal heat pump system in the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center rather than the originally proposed boiler and chiller system. (Loan $39,000)

Look around

More than 20 proposals have been submitted for Live Green loans so far, with 13 receiving funding. For proposals that didn't receive loan funds, Rankin said officials were able to identify other options for completing the projects.

Because the loan fund is a revolving fund, loan paybacks are available immediately for new green projects and proposals can be reviewed and awarded on an ongoing basis, Rankin said. She encourages faculty and staff to consider how they might use a little upfront funding.

"The loans can help departments increase their sustainability efforts and commitment, ensure more efficient, effective operations and services and reap the benefits and savings for years to come. Look around in almost any department and you're likely to find some worthy projects," she said.

Bright idea

Energy-efficient lighting is often a good first move, Rankin added.

"Lights and occupancy sensors are low-hanging fruit. For a relatively modest investment, you often can save a lot of money with a quick return on investment."

Rankin said she and other facilities planning and management staff are available to consult on potential Live Green Loan projects.

"If you have an idea you'd like to discuss or would like some help brainstorming ideas for greening your unit, contact me at or 515-294-5052."

The application process

The loan application process is outlined on the Live Green Loan site. The Live Green! Loan Fund Advisory Committee makes recommendations on proposals, based on analyses of the costs and payback and the money available in the Live Green Loan fund at any given time. The million-dollar fund ebbs and flows as loans are dispensed and repaid, Rankin said.