Bren School Energized by $500K Gift from SoCal Edison



Donation extends collaboration linking academia and business and provides for leading-edge technology to significantly enhance school’s education and outreach functions.


The Bren School of Environmental Science and Management is pleased to announce that Southern California Edison (SCE), a longtime Bren School Corporate Partner, has agreed to contribute a five-year, $500,000 gift to the school to support scholarship, research, and teaching, and to transform the existing Bren Hall Visitor Center into a cutting-edge site for interactive education and outreach.

John Fielder

”We are pleased to provide this grant to support the Bren School and equip the Visitor Center as a meeting place for discussions on energy efficiency and environmental protection,” said SCE President John Fielder, a UCSB alumnus. “SCE is excited to be part of the innovative conversations among Bren School students, faculty, and distinguished visitors from Santa Barbara, California, and the world.”

The Bren School is housed in Bren Hall, which was the first LEED™ Platinum laboratory building in the United States, and in August became the first building anywhere to earn a second Platinum certification as an existing building. The Visitor Center serves as the starting point for tours that have so far drawn more than eight thousand visitors since Bren Hall opened in 2002.

The enhanced center will showcase Bren Hall innovations and the shared commitment of the school and SCE to providing leadership in energy efficiency, environmental protection, resource conservation, and zero-net-energy building design and practices. It will also highlight SCE’s past and present work on clean energy, as well as the utility’s efforts, often performed in collaboration with University of California researchers, to advance innovation in providing safe, reliable, low-cost and sustainable electricity for today and future generations.

“I am delighted by this generous gift from Southern California Edison, which has a long history of supporting the university and our Bren School,” said UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “SCE continues to play a leading role in addressing the critical issues of energy sustainability and resource productivity, as well as in educating the public about energy issues. This important contribution will enable the Bren School and the university to more effectively pursue their shared mission in these areas.”

The SCE gift provides an initial $100,000 for enhancements that will allow the Visitor Center facilities to offer a more effective learning environment for the building’s many visitors. Over time these visitors have included local, state and national policy makers; delegates from foreign governments; multinational corporate leaders; administrators from university systems nationwide; all four branches of the U.S. Armed Forces; K-12 school children from both the general and under-represented populations; and others who want to learn about best practices in sustainability.

The remaining $400,000 of the gift will be used to establish an endowment, which, under the direction of the deans, will ensure the school’s ability to maintain the Visitor Center and provide ongoing excellence in programming and scholarship. The center will be renamed in recognition of Edison’s significant contributions to the Bren School.

“This gift from Southern California Edison is particularly welcome because it not only supports our pursuits in research, teaching, and student scholarship at the Bren School, but also the critical function of public education and outreach,” said incoming Bren School Dean Steve Gaines.

“Engaging with the public, from school children to world leaders, and sharing the wealth of information and knowledge generated through both our experience with Bren Hall and our ongoing collaboration with Southern California Edison is a worthy undertaking that underscores the value of our Corporate Partners Program,” Gaines added. “Through it, we are able to work with SCE and other environmentally astute organizations that are committed to making a real difference by accepting the challenges of re-creating industry within a vision of environmental sustainability.”

Trained students, staff, and volunteers have led guided tours of Bren Hall since it opened as the greenest laboratory building in the nation, but at the updated Visitor Center, visitors will be able to take virtual self-guided multimedia tours of the building.

Leading-edge technology will put detailed, comprehensive information about building materials and techniques, lighting, heating, cooling, recycling, water, and any other aspect of the building a click away. The digital audio and visual information will be updated as required, a critical component in helping visitors to understand the ongoing adaptations and evolution of Bren Hall, which has always been referred to as a “living laboratory.” Real-time data will also be available on various building functions, from solar-energy production to the status of the chiller system, which is integrated with that of the entire university.

The center will also reflect the school’s goal of using resources efficiently. It will make efficient use of human resources by dramatically reducing the need for tour guides while increasing the depth and breadth of available information. And it will save a substantial amount of paper by eliminating the need for brochures and the costs associated with reprinting them to incorporate new or updated information.

As awareness of anthropogenic global climate change increases, the public is increasingly concerned with the sources, costs, and environmental impacts associated with energy production. With its new technology and comprehensive information, the enhanced Visitor Center will increasingly serve a public that is eager to learn more about these issues and how to reduce their individual impacts on the environment. The center will become a powerful tool that enables SCE and the Bren School to share critical and evolving knowledge with the world.

Since 2001, UCSB has spent more than $11.8 million on electricity and water efficiency projects, and SCE has generously contributed more than $3.9 million through grant and rebate programs. These projects have saved 16 million kilowatt hours (kWh), worth $1.3 million per year and have reduced total annual campus electricity demand by more than three megawatts. Without SCE’s support for the university’s energy-conservation efforts, UCSB’s 89 million kWh of electricity use per year would have ballooned to 111 million kWh per year.