Campus building projects Go Green

by Hannah McClung

J202 Spring ’10

Sustainability and high performance buildings continue to be the focus of campus redevelopment projects in an economy where budgets are tight but investing in green efforts saves money and energy in the future.

“About seven years ago, we made a conscious decision to start adding energy conservation and sustainability elements into our projects,” said Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor of Facilities Planning and Management. “In the last seven years we’ve tried to ratchet that up even more as our energy costs have skyrocketed.”

According to Fish, from 2002 to 2008 the University’s energy bill went from $20 million to $50 million, which was driven by increased fuel costs because during that time the campus only grew three or four percent.

“There is a huge commitment to try and cut back on our energy use because it’s a good business plan for the campus,” said Fish. “You get environmental payoffs, but you also get energy use payoffs and you get budget payoffs if you do this wisely.”

The education building, union south project, and Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery are “pushing the envelope on state of the art, high performing buildings,” said Fish.

According to Project Manager Peter Heaslett, the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery will have the same expectations for sustainability as other buildings but the ability to implement them might be different because of the research efforts the building will house.

“[The WID building] will have a geothermal system and solar hot water and groundwater recovery systems,” said Heaslett. “The biggest bang for your buck you can get on sustainability, especially in a lab building, is looking at the HVAC mechanical systems.”

According to him, there are more opportunities in a lab building than there are in any other buildings because “by its nature it is pretty energy intensive to start with.”

The WID building is going to use 50 percent less energy than the average UW research building such as the Biochemistry building that was built in 1998, Heaslett said.

“We will still be well underneath anything done in the last five years,” said Heaslett. “We will be better than even the Microbial Sciences building because the next generation is always one better.”

According to him, lab pods in the WID building will have the ability to see how they’re doing on electrical and HVAC use with electronic dashboards available throughout the building.

“I think that will go a long way to influencing people’s behaviors in the building and understanding how their decisions on turning off lights effects their energy use,” Heaslett said.

According to Angela Pakes-Ahlman, project manager, the education building is the first energy star rated building for the state of Wisconsin.

“Reusing an existing building is sustainable in itself, so reusing something and improving its efficiencies is a great way to do sustainability,” said Pakes-Ahlman.

According to Project Manager Julie Grove, the union south project is funded in large part by segregated fees and one of the top goals for students was incorporating sustainability into the building.

“We will reduce the amount of water (in the new union) from a typical building by about 38 percent by using low-flow plumbing fixtures,” said Grove.

According to Grove, everything is going to be on occupancy censors so when there is no one in the space the lights are not on and heating and cooling systems will not be running.

“We’re not even looking at the baseline mechanical systems,” said Grove. “We’re totally looking at upgraded systems that will achieve a payback in a short period of time.”

Throughout the construction process 90 percent of the waste is being diverted out of landfills and recycled, said Grove. She also added the new union south building will use recycled and salvaged construction materials.

According to Faramarz Vakili, We Conserve program director, We Conserve influences the design of campus building projects so they keep conservation and efficiency in mind, makes sure construction efforts are environmentally friendly, and once the building is done they make sure the building is running as efficiently as the proposals claimed.

“We work with the building side but we continuously work with the people side for their education and their understanding of how their building works and how they can be effective and efficient users,” said Vakili.

According to Vakili, when Chamberlin Hall was renovated, its energy use was improved by 62 percent and Engineering Hall’s renovation improved usage by 40 percent.

There is currently a Sustainability Taskforce working to develop a vision for sustainability on campus in a way that “brings coordination and alignment across education, research, and operations that will address best institutional practices and advance major research initiatives,” said Gregg Mitman, chair of the sustainability taskforce and interim director of the Nelson Institute.

Written for an introductory journalism class Spring 2010.

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