Joseph Stagner
Stanford, Calif.
ENR 3/14/16 p. 38
Leads the cause for a more sustainable campus at Stanford University.

When Stanford University needed to replace its aging co­generation plant, the department of sustainability and energy management, led by executive director Joseph Stagner, began to examine the potential of using heat recovery to cut energy usage by 50% and greenhouse-gas emissions by 68%.

Unable to find any software to optimize the new plant’s design and operational performance, Stagner decided to invent it himself. From 2009 to 2011, he devoted thousands of hours on nights and weekends to developing a “brain” that would model, operate and verify operational efficiency.

His patented effort led to the justification, conceptual design and planning for Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI), a $438-million project, completed in 2015, to swap the cogen plant with a new heat-recovery system to provide heating and cooling to the campus.

“All game-changing projects need a leader who can establish a vision that is based on solid technical engineering and can express it with a boundless passion and commitment that energizes a team to join them in bringing that vision to reality,” says Michael Bove, principal with lead design firm Affiliated Engineers Inc. “For the SESI project and for the campus energy solution in general, that visionary is Joe Stagner.”

A new electrical substation brings electricity from two recently completed, Stanford-owned solar power plants, direct-sourced renewable-energy suppliers and the grid. Crews also converted 155 campus buildings to energy-saving hot-water distribution from steam via a 22-mile-long network of new pipe.

Since the central plant was completed, Stanford has conducted hundreds of tours, demonstrating the facility’s energy-saving solutions to more than 3,500 people from 28 countries and six continents. In addition, Stagner and other project participants have made presentations at numerous conferences and visited government, university and corporate sites. Stanford also plans to use the technology in future developments.

“As an architect, I was so happy that Stagner immediately grasped the enormous value that was added by making the CUP design a building that teaches,” says Joe Collins, partner with ZGF Architects LLP and architect on the SESI project. “What he and the Stanford administration have done is to plant an incredible flag on the battlefield to reverse global warming.”

“It’s a labor of love to work in an environment that wants innovation and is open-minded,” Stagner says. “Stanford is very fertile ground.”

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