State Farm Center energy savings

Above and Beyond

F&S Helps Save Energy at Iconic Arena

The State Farm Center (SFC) is avoiding energy costs thanks to F&S Utilities & Energy Services (UES) performing retrocommissioning (RCx) work. RCx strives to improve the mechanical systems already in place while increasing occupant comfort through their work. At SFC, that’s a tall (and wide) task.

The famous, long-time home to Illini men’s and women’s basketball and other premier events measures in at more than 315,000 square feet. It’s 400 feet in diameter and 125 feet high, big enough for large events, concerts, and even former All-American 7-foot center Kofi Cockburn.

A collection of methods, some of which are detailed below, helped SFC avoid about $214,000 in energy costs thanks to a partnership with F&S. View the full Report at The RCx team collaborated with the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) to discover the best methods to bring SFC up to more efficient standards. The Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) was the financing source, a program used for utilities conservation projects with less than ten-year payback periods, including steam, electricity, chilled water, or water reduction projects. Projects are selected based on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, community visibility, and other factors; this one fit the budget and ability to hit metrics and benchmarks. The RLF is managed by F&S and the savings from utility costs are paid back annually to replenish the fund.

Said Brett Stillwell, DIA senior associate athletics director, capital projects and facilities: “This collaboration with F&S has been great. The cost avoidance here will have a huge impact on our athletic department as well as the whole campus.

“SFC is an iconic building on this campus,” said Stillwell. “To be able to bring it into the 21st century with high quality mechanical systems and retrofitting like this to be state of the art is vital.”

“F&S brought their expertise and helped us trouble-shoot parts of the challenges that we face with operating 26 air handling units in one building,” said Tom Divan, assistant director of athletics, State Farm Center. “They went above and beyond what was asked in the project and helped us out in a lot of ways. We’ll see the benefits of that for years to come.”

Here are a few of the changes made, as described by Andy Robinson, RCx team management engineer.


Building sensors were installed to slightly pressurize the building with conditioned air. Since this building holds thousands who enter and exit at the same times—including people at public entrances and massive equipment through the loading dock—this requires more than just a one-time air balance. This method allows the system to bring in more outside air when needed, but also reduce exhaust for low occupancy.

The air in the building is continuously monitored for carbon dioxide. Sensors open up outdoor air dampers and fans ramp up quickly when people stream in for a concert or game.

AHU Optimization

The four main air handling units (AHUs) are some of the largest on campus and are the size of two semi-trailers stacked on top of each other. There are advanced energy recovery wheels inside that bring in maximum fresh air but do not send out all of the conditioned energy; goals are established in accordance with ASHRAE standards and CDC guidelines. This greatly reduces heating and cooling costs, but does require some fairly advanced control sequences and calibration.

These AHUs previously operated for 18 hours per day, regardless of building use. Now, they turn off at 6 p.m. and only run to 12 a.m. when overridden for an evening event. Two of the four main units and half of the concourse ring can be kept off in mild weather while the other two are running at 30% fan speed and can ramp up if there is an event or space demand.

The Future

SFC staff are trained in building automation and physically walk the entire building each day to check on systems. F&S typically recommends a decommissioning team go back through every 3-5 years to look holistically at the building. There are always some tweaks to be made in a building with such varying occupancy and uses. This building is operating with an improved level of energy efficiency. Future improvements will update the computerized building automation system with software upgrades, sensor calibrations, and filter changes.