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Commercial Applications

Case Study: Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA

An Environmental Tradition with an Even Greener Future

On the beautiful Pepperdine University campus, sustainable design is not a new idea. Since 1972, when the school first introduced its water-reclamation program, the university has embraced sustainable practices and environmental stewardship.

When the opportunity arose to implement a major lighting retrofit on the university’s Drescher campus, Les Thomas, Manager of Energy Services, used Lutron wireless controls to maximize energy efficiency while ensuring that Pepperdine remained a comfortable, productive place for faculty, students, and staff. The school reduced lighting energy use by 20-30% in the renovated space, and the costs were 100% covered by available utility incentives.


SCE’s Private School Program provides private institutions with services to implement cost-effective, energy-efficient measures to permanently reduce their electricity usage.

In addition to a fixture retrofit, two control opportunities were identified:

  • Install occupancy sensors to turn off lights in unoccupied offices and classrooms
  • Reduce HVAC costs in unoccupied classrooms by leveraging the lighting occupancy sensors in a cost-effective way
Typical classroom control includes occupancy sensor and HVAC control
The original plan anticipated installation of a wired system, but the installation and material costs exceeded budget requirements, and did not ensure satisfactory results.


Working with FCI, Mr. Thomas proposed a lighting control solution that included Lutron wireless occupancy sensors, switches and relay modules in each area to ensure lights are turned off when the space is empty. In many rooms, Lutron wireless wall switches provide three-way control with no additional wiring required.

Common areas use wireless occupancy sensors to reduce lighting energy use
He also recognized the opportunity to reduce energy used by the HVAC system. To capture this opportunity, wireless contact closure modules (CCOs) were installed with the remote VAV boxes which regulate air supply in each classroom. The CCO modules communicate directly with the same wireless occupancy.


Encouraged by the results, Pepperdine is already working on a proposal for the school’s lower campus. Project stakeholders estimate that the occupancy controls throughout the retrofit are reducing lighting energy usage by 20-30%. In addition, by integrating the VAV boxes wirelessly to the occupancy sensors the solution is reducing overall HVAC energy usage in the classrooms by an additional 14%.

Les Thomas knows the systems are maintaining a comfortable work/study environment, “Generally, if I’m not getting any negative feedback, I know everyone is happy. If the lights were turning off when people were in the space, or students were cold in the classrooms, I would definitely know. Any time we can strike the perfect balance, we know we’ve made the best choice.”

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