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Earth Day Report: UW Accomplishing Its Sustainability Goals


April 18, 2011 — Dozens of students gather to study and converse in the bright, spacious atrium in the University of Wyoming  College of Business, unaware that the facility's comfortable environment is the result of long-range planning efforts to improve indoor environmental quality and achieve a high level of energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions in all UW buildings.

As Earth Day 2011 approaches, members of UW's Campus Sustainability Committee say much progress has been made to achieve the university's sustainability goals. They point out that UW always has emphasized energy efficiency when planning and building new capital construction projects. Such emphasis advanced to a new level in 2007 when UW President Tom Buchanan signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), committing UW to become carbon neutral by 2050.

In 2009, UW submitted its Climate Action Plan, the guiding document for reducing carbon emissions and becoming more sustainable.

Even before signing on to the ACUPCC,  energy conservation measures such as increased daylighting and advanced controls systems were incorporated into the design of such facilities as a major expansion to Coe Library, the Health Sciences Center and Indoor Practice Facility.

As spelled out in the plan, the university now seeks LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver status for all new buildings, says Roger Baalman, director of Facilities Planning. LEED, the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability, provides a rating system with four certification levels for new construction: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Among the LEED goals are lower operating costs; reduced waste sent to the landfill; energy and water conservation; a healthier and safer environment for occupants; reduced greenhouse gas; and demonstrated commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Baalman says LEED Gold status is expected soon for the College of Business, and UW has applied for Silver status for the Kendall House, the new home of the Environment and Natural Resources Program. Documents are being prepared to seek Gold status for the new Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center, and Platinum status for a Visual Arts Center now being constructed near the Centennial Complex.

The Physical Plant and Facilities Planning have increased energy efficiency across campus by installing new and more efficient windows, heat recovery systems, control valves, motors and lighting in many campus buildings, Baalman adds. Other energy conservation measures are more efficient ventilation and heating systems, and automated systems to manage building system operations, insulation improvements, low-flow plumbing fixtures and other improvements.

Additionally, the university has chosen an Energy Services Company (ESCo) to develop a detailed energy audit and project development schedule for energy facility improvements to 10 UW buildings. Long Energy Solutions is identifying energy conservation measures that can result in utility savings that will finance the energy upgrades and improvements.

The sustainability efforts go far beyond the design and construction of new buildings, says Jim Scott, Physical Plant director and Sustainability Committee co-chairman. He notes that the university has elevated its efforts to reduce carbon emissions by focusing on policy changes and initiatives in areas such as  grounds enhancements by planting trees, reducing water use, transportation efficiency improvements, purchasing and procuring environmentally-friendly products, and expanding recycling and waste management activities.

UW also has begun conducting research and offering educational opportunities in the areas of climate science, climate policy and sustainability. Among these efforts, Scott says, are a project-oriented sustainability class now in its fifth year, and, in the College of Business, a new sustainable business practices minor and Ph.D. degree in marketing with a focus on sustainable business practices.

Sustainability Committee members have produced a progress report that details accomplishments in all of these areas. The report notes UW ranked among the nation's 286 most environmentally responsible colleges, according to the Green Guide, published by the Princeton Review and the U.S. Green Building Council.

All of this is paying off. Scott says even in light of tremendous growth in square footage (about 400,000 square feet since 2006), purchased electricity and greenhouse gas emissions have remained fairly steady.

"With the more efficient new campus buildings and as the development and use of alternative energy sources become more feasible, emissions relative to the total square footage are expected to decrease more significantly," Scott says.

For more information visit the Campus Sustainable Committee website at http://www.uwyo.edu/sustainability.

Photo:
The University of Wyoming seeks LEED Gold status for the renovated College of Business Building. (UW Photo)

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