PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 27, No. 1, July 5, 2007
Energy efficiency: Campus seeks to reduce energy use
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
The Urbana campus is finalizing its first-ever Energy Use Policy, a plan that will serve as the model for a universitywide program of energy conservation initiatives.
“We’re all aware that energy costs are a growing part of our personal budgets,” Chancellor Richard Herman wrote in a May 3 e-mail to the campus community. “It is no different for the university. Each dollar we spend on energy is a dollar not available for salaries, instruction or basic supplies. As we look to the future, we must find better ways to control energy consumption and costs on campus.”
The university has an accumulated deficit for energy costs and debt service on bonds that financed upgrades to the utility infrastructures at the Chicago and Urbana campuses. Responsibility for those costs, previously borne by university administration, began shifting to the campuses last year.
“Our energy consumption is high compared to many campuses because the bill was always invisible and there was no incentive to conserve,” said Terry Ruprecht, director of energy conservation.
Similar institutions such as Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin have had energy conservation programs in place for many years, Ruprecht said.
The University Energy Task Force, formed in September 2006 at the request of the UI Board of Trustees, is looking at all aspects of energy production, use and conservation at the three campuses. Linda Katehi and R. Michael Tanner, the provosts at Urbana and Chicago, respectively, chair the task force.
Early this year, Katehi commissioned the Campus Energy Policy Committee, which Ruprecht chairs, and charged it with developing guidelines for aggressively reducing energy consumption, improving energy efficiency and promoting use of renewable energy sources on the Urbana campus.
The policy the committee has proposed contains nine general guidelines that include implementation of an incentive system to encourage energy conservation and reporting of energy waste; education and awareness programs; encouraging people to walk, bicycle and use mass transit; and purchasing the most energy-efficient equipment and fuel-efficient vehicles for the campus fleet.
To better manage energy consumption in existing facilities, variable temperature parameters would be established according to the hours buildings were occupied and unoccupied and during heating and air conditioning seasons. Exceptions to those temperature guidelines, which would require the approval of the college dean and the Office of the Provost, would include animal rooms and research facilities with documented needs for particular temperatures.
To substantially reduce air-conditioning needs during summer sessions, college deans and academic administrators would be encouraged to minimize the number of buildings in which classes were held.
Energy consumption and conservation would be decisive factors in the planning and management of campus growth, remodeling and development as well. Renovation projects of $5 million or more would be required to qualify for silver-level certification, the third highest of four ratings for energy efficiency and eco-friendly technology awarded under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. New construction and renovation projects costing more than $2 million would have to be LEED compliant as well.
Once the policy is finalized, the next step will be drafting an implementation plan, Ruprecht said. “A key piece of this is an awareness and information campaign that keeps folks on campus tuned in to what’s going on. We’ll never be successful with any energy conservation program unless it has absolute understanding and cooperation across the campus. If everyone is pulling in the same direction, we can make huge progress.”
The conservation effort also will demand a significant investment in refurbishing buildings with aging, inefficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, which constitute a large portion of the $617 million backlog of deferred maintenance projects at Urbana. Facilities and Services staff members are prioritizing the deferred maintenance projects based upon need and condition, and flagging those with potentially significant – and immediate – energy savings. The renovations will be funded by bonds and the Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment, a $250 per semester fee that new students at Urbana began paying during the fall 2006 semester and that all students will be paying by FY2010.
To facilitate more rigorous energy management and monitoring, utility meters in 85 campus buildings are being replaced, repaired and upgraded. The $2.5 million series of projects, expected to be concluded by the end of 2007, includes repairing or replacing malfunctioning steam meters, installing chilled water meters in 19 buildings that don’t have meters, installing telemetering systems that allow chilled water and steam meters to be read remotely, installing 60 electrical submeters in selected locations, and repairing or replacing 25,000 steam traps.
Additionally, the UI is participating in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Energy Star” program, which provides resources such as energy-management guidelines, an energy program assessment matrix and a provider directory of services and supplies.
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
Students are more proactive than UI faculty and staff members in terms of valuing energy conservation and renewable energy sources, said Terry Ruprecht, campus academic facilities officer.
Accordingly, student fees are funding several “green” projects at the Urbana campus aimed at promoting energy efficiency, energy conservation and a clean environment.
The Business Instructional Facility under construction at the corner of Sixth Street and Gregory Drive will be the UI’s first building qualified for a gold rating, the highest rating under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. The building will use renewable energy sources and sustainable design components such as vegetative roof areas and photovoltaic arrays that convert sunlight into electricity. The $62 million building, to be completed in 2008, is expected to consume 75 percent less energy than older campus buildings of similar size. The $75,000 costs for the green roof sectors and half the $373,000 costs of the photovoltaic arrays are being funded by an Energy Technology Fee paid by students.
The $2 per semester fee, which supports clean energy and energy efficient technologies on campus, was approved in a March 2003 student referendum and was implemented during the fall 2003 semester. The student fee also is funding or co-funding several other “green” projects on campus:
A biodiesel initiative will convert the 300 to 400 gallons of waste vegetable oil produced weekly by university dining halls during the academic year into an equivalent amount of biodiesel for fueling UI vehicles. Facilities and Services will modify an indoor car wash this fall so it can house the converter, with fuel production possibly to begin some time during 2008. The Garage and Car Pool uses approximately 8,000 gallons of diesel monthly. The biodiesel project will help reduce dependence on oil and reduce emissions. The Student Clean Energy Committee has committed $20,000 to the project and tentatively identified another $10,000 in funds that it may contribute, said Pete Varney, F&S transportation manager. Total costs for the project are unknown at this time.
Wind turbines to be installed on the South Farms will generate electricity for campus buildings. Dick Drew, F&S capital construction project manager, said that F&S is in the process of requesting proposals from turbine suppliers. Although the initial project called for installation of three 1.5 megawatt turbines at a total project budget of $5.7 million, the number of turbines may have to be scaled back to two turbines, or additional funds will have to be obtained because of price increases. The UI has committed $3.4 million to the project with a $2 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and $300,000 from the student clean energy fee. The turbines may be installed in late 2008 or in 2009. Manufacturers have a significant backlog of orders because of increased interest in wind energy technology.
A 2,500-gallon ethanol storage tank to be installed at the F&S Garage and Car Pool will displace up to 30 percent – or 40,000 gallons – of the gasoline used each year by more than 130 flex-fuel vehicles in the rental fleet. (E-85 is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.) Varney said the student fee is funding the $45,000 project entirely. The tank probably will be installed before the end of the year.
In addition, at the May meeting of the UI Board of Trustees, the trustees approved a $5 per semester Sustainable Campus Environment Fee that will help finance initiatives such as green buildings, recycling, environmentally responsible purchasing and community engagement projects. Students approved the fee in a March referendum, and it will be implemented in FY2008, which began July 1.
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