Office of Sustainability Year in Review

December 30, 2015

The 2014-2015 school year yielded many success stories for the Office of Sustainability and its campus partners. Office staff worked to enhance recycling efforts, storm water systems, and a bike-share program, to name a just a few of the myriad projects underway. The office serves as a resource and to support a thoughtful balance between environmental, social and economic sustainability in all decisions at the University of Chicago. Highlighted projects and initiatives resulting from the Office’s collaboration and research activities are presented below. This list is a brief overview of just a handful of initiatives the Office of Sustainability tackled this year. If you have feedback or would like to engage with us on these or any other projects, please contact us.

North Sciences Quadrangle Storm-water Capture and Reuse Tank

The Office of Sustainability co-funded the installation of a storm-water capture tank and associated infrastructure, along with software to monitor water recapture. The first of its kind on campus, this system will lower utility costs, reduce the amount of potable water used and allow us to quantify the benefits, helping to inform future decisions surrounding water usage. Learn more, and visit our website for update regarding this project.

Regenstein Library Energy Reduction Pilot

This pilot program is designed to reduce utility costs by creating a culture of energy consciousness through education and training. This is achieved by a dual approach: building systems optimization, and various strategies to educate and encourage occupants to use less energy. The University’s main study center consumes 7.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually – equivalent to the total electricity use of 600 houses per year. To incentivize participation, a portion of the utility cost savings will be shared with Regenstein for projects of their choosing. Learn more, and visit our website for updates regarding this project.

On-demand electronic-waste recycling now available

The Office of Sustainability and IT Services collaborated in spring to bring on-demand electronic-waste (e-waste) recycling services to campus. Community members pitch cell phones, televisions, digital cameras and other items in special bins located at the east entrance of the Regenstein Library and the west lobby of the Gordon Center for Integrative Science seven days a week during business hours. Learn more about this service by visiting our website. As of March 2015, the University collected and recycled more than 25,900 pounds of electronic scrap – making that a 10,000 lbs. difference compared to the previous year (2014-2015). 

UChicago offers Divvy bike sharing discounts for students, faculty, staff

Divvy is the City of Chicago’s bike sharing system, with 3,000 bikes and 300 stations across the city, including many in Hyde Park. Our corporate membership with Divvy allows discounted annual memberships to all UChicago students for $55, and to faculty and staff for $65, including those working in the Medical Center. Divvy bikes are available for use 24 hours a day throughout the year. Visit the Office of Sustainability website for more information about the discount, or visit the Divvy website for general information about the bike-share program.

Academic and Research Collaboration

Over the summer, the Office collaborated with the Graham School and Paulson Institute on the Chinese Mayor’s Training Initiative. The third-annual sustainability training program for Chinese mayors included 22 mayors, vice mayors and government officials from Zhejiang province. The program covered issues ranging from economic development and sustainability to public transportation, organic urban renewal, municipal financing models and the protection of cultural heritage.

The Office also partners with the Department of Geophysical Sciences to enable students to study utility and energy systems servicing campus. Office staff work with faculty across various departments to strengthen the sustainable discourse between curricula and the physical campus. These partnerships drive the shared goal of making the campus a “living laboratory,” a space where sustainable academic research is embodied by and explored through our facilities.

Accelerate Performance Grant – Campus North Residence Hall and David M. Rubenstein Forum

“Accelerate Performance” is a U.S. Department of Energy funded initiative that enables owners and developers to achieve desired energy performance goals. It will shift the market from energy analysis, which focuses on energy savings predictions, toward one where the anticipated performance is clearly stated and actual energy use is measured. This will ensure accountability for building performance after construction.

The University of Chicago is one of the first to pioneer performance-based procurement in the higher education sector. “The contract is used as a mechanism to spark creativity on how to integrate energy efficiency in the design,” said Mike Stopka, director of Sustainability. “Selecting an energy goal engages the architect in the discussion.”

2009 - 2015 Energy Efficiency Performance

Facilities Services has completed over 200 efficiency projects to improve campus utilities, building systems and occupant comfort. If not for these projects, utility bills (not including the University Medical Center) are projected to be roughly 8 percent higher. Many factors such as weather, aging infrastructure, new buildings, closure or demolition of old buildings, changes in utility distribution and commodity rates, and fluctuations in internal and external energy loads, impact utility expenses.