Washington University’s Danforth Campus recently adopted an updated standard for thermostatic setpoints in office and classroom spaces. This new policy aims to improve the comfort of building occupants, reduce operating costs, and reduce the university’s carbon emissions. It applies to offices and classrooms. Spaces with specific temperature, humidity, and air flow requirements, such as laboratories, as well as some assembly spaces, may be operated under different parameters in order to meet programmatic requirements or to optimize energy efficiency.

The setpoint policy is based on extensive thermal comfort research by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers), and on feedback from the WashU community, that identifies the temperature ranges where 80% or more of occupants are comfortable. The policy reflects current WashU design specifications for new construction and is consistent with temperature setpoint policies at institutions throughout the US.

Private Offices:
Cooling 73° – 76° F
Heating 69° – 73° F

Common and Shared Spaces:
Cooling 74° – 76° F
Heating 70° – 72° F

Residential Life Spaces:
Cooling 70° – 77° F
Heating 67° – 74° F


While Washington University has historically sought to maintain common setpoints across its campuses, the university has taken an ad hoc approach to requests for variances. Over time this has led to unintended consequences, including: spaces that are uncomfortably cold in summer months, higher energy costs, higher carbon emissions, and temperatures that are determined by the preferences of the most vocal. Data from the university’s buildings, as well as anecdotal information, show that roughly 45% of Danforth campus spaces have been maintained at temperatures that are uncomfortably cold for many members of the university community during the summer months .

The new setpoint policy seeks to address these issues in two ways:

  • The previous year-round common setpoint of 72° +/- 2 degrees is being updated to include separate seasonally-appropriate heating and cooling temperature ranges that research has shown to be comfortable for the majority of people. The high and low ends of the new ranges adjust the previous common setpoint by a maximum of 2 degrees.
  • Institute an exception request process to limit the number of variances.

In addition to improving occupants’ comfort, the policy is estimated to save $200,000 – $300,000 per year when fully implemented. With the recent shift to use-based billing for campus utilities, savings will accrue directly to the Schools. The policy is also estimated to reduce campus carbon emissions by 2,500 – 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, which is 5-8% of the university’s 2020 carbon reduction goal and equivalent to removing 530 – 845 cars from the road.

The policy was piloted in Hillman Hall in late 2016 without cost or physical disturbance to the Brown School. Implementation resulted in immediate energy savings. No occupant complaints were received and a number of staff members expressed improved comfort. The policy was also piloted in Provost Holden Thorp’s office suite and Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration Hank Webber’s office suite. The graph below shows the energy savings that resulted from the Hillman Hall pilot, corresponding to ~9% annual energy savings.

It is important to note that the new policy will require some staff members to adjust to the new conditions. The updated setpoints may require adjustments in dress and/or some time for staff to acclimate to the new conditions. It usually takes the human body 10-20 days to acclimate to changing seasons.


The university will take a phased approach to implementing the setpoint policy in order to identify and address potential issues in buildings of different ages and types. The HVAC Services team will implement the first phase of buildings in late May and early June 2017. These buildings will be included in the following phases:

Phase I – Spring 2017

Alumni House

Anheuser-Busch Hall

Bixby Hall

Brauer Hall

Brookings Hall

Duncker Hall

Eads Hall

Hillman Hall

Millbrook Facilities Building

Olin Business School

Olin Library

Psychology Building

Simon Hall

Phase II – Fall 2017

276 N. Skinker

560 Building

Athletic Facilities Building

Busch Hall

Busch Lab

Cupples Hall I

Danforth University Center

Environmental Health & Safety

Sumers Rec Center

Gaylord Music Library

Givens Hall

Goldfarb Plant Growth Facility

Laboratory Sciences Building

Life Sciences Building

McDonnell Hall

McMillan Hall Addition

Music Classroom Building

North Campus Main Building

Power Plant – Danforth

Rebstock Hall

Ridgley Hall

Seigle Hall

Sever Hall

Steinberg Art Gallery

Umrath Hall

Walker Hall

West Campus Buildings

Whitaker Hall

Women’s Building

Phase III – Spring 2018

Brown Hall

Charles Knight Executive Center

Compton Hall

Crow Hall

Cupples Hall II

Goldfarb Hall

Graham Chapel

Green Hall

Jolley Hall

Lopata Hall

Louderman Hall

Mallinckrodt Center

McMillen Lab – Chemistry

Monsanto Lab Building

Rudolph Hall

Urbauer Hall

West Campus Main Building

Wilson Hall

Phase IV – Fall 2019

Danforth House

Shepley House

Wheeler House

Liggett House

Koenig House

Phase V – Summer 2020

Dardick House

Nemerov House

Lien House

Gregg House

Mudd House

Park House

Phase VI – Summer 2021

Village East

Village House

Lopata House

Small Group Housing #2

Small Group Housing #4

Phase VII – Summer 2022

Shanedling House

Rutledge House

Dauten House

Hitzeman House

Hurd House

Myers House

Millbrook 1

Millbrook 2

Millbrook 3



What do I do if I’m too hot or too cold?

First, consider if there are adjustments to your attire that will improve your thermal comfort. Be sure to dress for the seasons. Second, if you have windows with blinds/shades, consider managing incoming solar energy by raising or lowering them as necessary. If you have operable windows, closing them will allow the HVAC system to meet the thermostat settings and manage humidity. If none of these strategies are adequate, contact customer service at 935-5544. The HVAC Services team will ensure that the setpoint is within the policy range and that the thermostats are properly calibrated.

These temperatures seem too hot/cold. How were these selected?

The Setpoint Policy was developed based on the ASHRAE Standard 55Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. The purpose of the standard is to specify the combinations of indoor thermal environmental factors and personal factors that will produce thermal environmental conditions acceptable to a majority of the occupants within the space. ASHRAE standards have been developed through an extensive series of studies since the 1960’s. For cooling conditions, the WashU setpoints are on the lower end of the ASHRAE recommendations.

The temperature in my space is considerably warmer/colder than the temperature on the nearest thermostat. What should I do?

If you experience a space that is a very different temperature than the setpoint on the nearest thermostat, please contact Maintenance Operations (314-935-5544) to review the conditions.

Does this include laboratory spaces?

No. Setpoints in laboratory spaces will be considered on a case-by-case basis to optimize programmatic needs and energy efficiency.

Does this include residential spaces?

New, programmable thermostats are being rolled out in residential spaces starting Fall 2019. Residential spaces with new thermostats will be included in the temperature setpoint policy.

How does the exception process work?

If you would like to request an exception, see the instructions below. Requests will be reviewed by a committee, with consultation from the academic unit and/or administrative unit from which the request has been received.

To view a slide deck with additional background information, view the Temperature Setpoint Policy (PPT).

Exception Request Process

Exceptions to the setpoint policy may be granted on a limited case-by-case basis and are subject to the ability of the building systems to meet the request. Personal preference will not be considered a valid reason for seeking exceptions. If you would like to request an exception to the setpoint policy, please have your department head send an email with the following information to cfu-tempexception@email.wustl.edu.

  • Name of the Person Requesting an Exception
  • Email of the Person Requesting an Exception
  • Department Name
  • Building
  • Room Number
  • Desired Setpoint
  • Reason for Requesting an Exception (please be as specific as possible)

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