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Friday, October 22, 2010

Energy Summit Projects Show Strong Returns

Many people across campus often know little about the myriad ways sustainability is taking shape behind the scenes at the operational level, and they are sure are many. One area that has seen prolific consideration is energy. Over the last two years, UF has invested millions of dollars into a number of energy efficiency projects throughout campus. Energy Summits, convened by Vice President of Business Affairs, Ed Poppell, brought stakeholders from throughout UF together to identify projects that would save energy, improve operations & maintenance, and reduce UF’s carbon footprint. Representatives from Housing, University Athletic Association, IFAS, Physical Plant Division, Facilities, Planning & Construction, and the Health Science Center came together to identify and implement key projects to accomplish these goals. Since electricity for the university has a $43 million dollar price tag last year, and buildings account for over 70% of our carbon footprint, these projects help reduce costs as well as environmental impact.

As a result of the energy summit projects, most of UF’s buildings are now individually metered for electricity, allowing staff to monitor energy use more accurately and customize building systems to operate more efficiently. Major renovations and equipment replacements included chillers, boilers, and air handlers throughout campus. One project, replacing T-12 lighting fixtures with T-8’s had a return on investment of 61%, with $300,000 annual savings! Smaller projects, like installing occupancy sensors, upgrading filters, and replacing windows were also a part of the Energy Summit projects.

The upgrades and efforts conducted in response to the Energy Summit meetings reflect UF’s commitment to sustainability and carry the institution closer to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. However, based upon information gleaned from the 2005 Greenhouse Gas Inventory conducted, it was determined that around 30% of a building’s energy use is attributable to small equipment and behavioral conditions. This insight helped inform the design and implementation of the “Chomp Down on Energy” efficiency campaign to help educate and empower students, staff and faculty to consider the impact their individual actions have on the cumulative energy use (and footprint) of UF. All Gators can learn tips for energy conservation, and actively be a part of the sustainability story unfolding across campus.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Faces of Sustainability - Facilities, Planning and Construction

When it comes to the long-term vision for the physical space of the University of Florida, Linda Dixon, Assistant Director in Facilities, Planning and Construction, plays an enormous part in incorporating sustainability into each step of the planning process. The UF Campus Master Plan puts sustainable practices at the forefront of planning and managing the campus’ built and natural environments including buildings, transportation, utilities, and environmental protection. The current plan was adopted in 2005 following extensive input from faculty, staff, students and the community. An update for 2010 is underway, but most of the overhaul to incorporate sustainability was included in the 2005 plan according to Dixon. “The plan is based on a land use pattern that seeks to make it easy to walk, bicycle and use transit while protecting the significant habitats and open spaces that we have on campus.”

The plan’s transportation policies are very progressive, and Ms. Dixon works with many stakeholders including UF’s Transportation & Parking Services, Office of Sustainability, Physical Plant Division, and Gainesville Regional Transit System to make those policies a reality. She advocates for funding to construct new bicycle and pedestrian facilities, such as the new bike paths through Bartram-Carr Woods and near the Cancer-Genetics building. She also serves on the Parking and Transportation Committee, and facilitates an ad-hoc Sustainable Transportation Work Group that meets regularly to improve conditions such as bicycle parking, carpooling, bicycle safety, and employee transportation options. She herself enjoys using the FPC department bike to get around campus.

On environmental issues, Ms. Dixon relies heavily on the Lakes, Vegetation and Landscaping Committee as well as Erik Lewis, Senior Planner in Facilities Planning and Construction. Mr. Lewis maintains Conservation Area Land Management (CALM) Plans that prescribe environmental protection measures to be taken in natural areas on campus. Many of these recommendations were recently implemented with student funding from the Capital Improvement Trust Fund and grants from the Department of Environmental Protection.

To round out sustainable measures, Ms. Dixon also devotes significant time to issues such as energy efficient lighting, green building, and historic preservation, but adds that all of these efforts rely on a network of students, faculty and staff that are knowledgeable and willing to learn and contribute – all of which are in abundant supply at UF! Campus Master Plan and CALM Plans can be viewed at University of Florida FP&C Campus Planning .