University invests in campus-wide energy efficiency upgrades
January 6, 2012
In 2009, the University began conducting campus-wide energy audits as part of a new program to identify and implement energy conservation measures in campus buildings. Three quarters of the University's greenhouse gas emissions are from building operations, which includes electricity and natural gas, so we are looking to make significant investments in new technology and retrofits that enhance efficiency of existing buildings. Thus far, energy efficiency upgrades have been completed in four buildings and, with the expectation of significant energy and monetary savings, the University is accelerating its efforts in 2012.
This energy audit and retro-commissioning work is partially funded through a generous $2.5 million grant from Jim and Paula Crown, intended to advance sustainability on the UChicago campus. According to Ilsa Flanagan, Director of Sustainability, the grant was a shot in the arm for the fledgling campus sustainability program. "A portion of the funding supports programs on campus to help build awareness of sustainability issues and the balance is allocated to energy efficiency measures," Flanagan reports. "As we found in our first greenhouse gas inventory," she continues, "building electricity is responsible for 49% of our emissions, making buildings an obvious priority for our energy reduction efforts."
Energy efficiency upgrades vary for each building and can include lighting updates, weatherization, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) retrofits. "Lighting changes commonly include installing occupancy sensors, reducing light use when the building is un- or under-occupied or during daylight hours, and switching to less energy-intensive light fixtures," explains C. Lee, Facilities Services' Project Manager for the energy efficiency upgrade projects. "Weatherization protects the building and its interior from the elements," she describes, "while HVAC equipment is often adjusted to allow for increased efficiency."
Upgrades in Pick Hall, Stuart Hall, the Social Science Research Building, and the Henry Crown Field House were completed last year. Not only did the Henry Crown energy efficiency upgrades increase energy savings, but they also enhanced occupant experience. Open holes in the building envelope were fixed and the lighting fixtures were changed. "I've seen photos of the old, orange lighting," stated Adam Coleman, a second year in the College, "and I don't think I would have been able to make it through the already grueling early morning crew practices had the new lighting not been installed."
Work is currently underway in Kent Hall, Ratner Athletics Center, the Anatomy Building, Regenstein Library, and the Gordon Center for Integrative Science, which will include lighting changes and adjustments to heating and cooling systems. A total of 16 buildings are being retro-commissioned, a systematic process that identifies low-cost operational and maintenance improvements in existing buildings, which typically focuses on energy using equipment such as lighting and mechanical systems. An additional 19 buildings are in line for energy efficiency upgrades immediately afterwards.
The University is supplementing the Crown Gift funds with other grant monies. "This work is fundamental to creating a sustainable and engaging campus," states Flanagan, "and by leveraging the Crown Gift, we can more than triple the number of upgrades we will be performing on campus."
To draw attention to building energy consumption, the University plans to ramp up installation of energy dashboards across campus. These dashboards not only display real-time energy data but will also highlight the functionality and purpose of each building's unique green features. In addition to kiosks in campus buildings, the dashboard interface is accessible online and will support inter- and intra-building competitions to reduce energy consumption. "The dashboards, such as the one in Searle Laboratory, make energy use visible in real time and encourage changes in energy consumption," reports Sumit Ray, Engineering and Utilities Director.
On such a dynamic campus, the energy dashboards and retro-commissioning work might go unnoticed. "One might not observe the infrastructure upgrades that are taking place behind the scenes," emphasized Ray, " but these changes are propelling the University towards a significant reduction in our energy consumption and increases the reliability of these critical systems."