Vanderbilt University


Nashville, TN



In 2019, Vanderbilt University set a goal to power its campus entirely through renewable energy and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Part of the University’s plan to meet that commitment includes reducing energy consumption and waste and investing in sustainable infrastructure. Since then, Gresham Smith has provided commissioning services for new HVAC systems in four of the University’s buildings and counting, supporting Vanderbilt’s sustainability goals by creating operationally and energy efficient buildings where administrators, faculty, staff and students can live, work and learn.

A Cooler Blakemore House

The dated HVAC equipment in Blakemore House—the three-story, 10,000-square-foot home to many of the university’s athletes—received a renovation, and Vanderbilt called on Gresham Smith to commission the system. While reviewing the contract documents, our team identified several design and control issues to address, and uncovered additional challenges during functional performance testing. After making adjustments to combat a short-cycling chiller and unachievable dehumidification setpoints, Vanderbilt students are comfortable in their home-away-from-home.

Progress at the Police Station

In 2019, the campus police station’s outdated HVAC was replaced with a more efficient system—a dedicated outside air system serving a collection of variable flow refrigerant units. Despite the challenges posed by a building that is occupied 24/7, our team commissioned the new system, resulting in more efficient, reliable building operations.

A Better Baker Building

Built in 1967, Vanderbilt’s Baker Building received an upgraded HVAC system to replace outdated, failing equipment. Gresham Smith commissioned the new split A/C unit and new unit substation, completing functional performance tests to assess the equipment’s operations.

Enhancing Divinity Library Circulation

Vanderbilt University’s Divinity Library was experiencing heightened levels of humidity indoors due to an aging system and inability to treat and condition outdoor air and maintain positive building pressurization. We identified the challenges in the existing system design and operation and then outlined a plan to design and install an energy recovery/makeup air system, which would precondition outdoor air to reduce the load on the air handling unit coils and maintain slightly positive building pressure. Our team also designed and implemented a complete DDC controls upgrade to coordinate the new equipment with existing systems.