Fall 2016 LED Lamp Giveaway

The Fall 2016 semester has begun, and with help from UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy and the university’s energy provider, Eversource, the upcoming year is looking bright! New and returning students who flocked to the brand-new UConn Bookstore to pick up their textbooks also received a complementary LED desk lamp with the UConn logo and a USLamp 1B charging port.

LED light bulbs are extremely beneficial in saving energy and money. The bulbs are up to six times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and if they’re used 24/7, can last up to three years. They also emit less heat, avoiding potential dorm fires. As a result of their efficiency, students are expected to reuse the lamps for the majority of their time at UConn, resulting in less money spent on new bulbs or other lighting fixtures, as well as decreased energy usage.Lamp 2

The LED lamp promotion is one way of continuing UConn’s commitment to reducing energy, living sustainably, and promoting environmental stewardship across campus. A total of 3,500 lamps were given out to students this year – an incredible number of people were interested in having energy efficient fixtures. Our strong partnership with Eversource, as well as student involvement, contribute immensely to our continual top ten ranking in the Sierra Magazine’s Cool School survey.

We would like to extend our gratitude to Eversource and all of the students involved. Our goal of promoting interest and action in sustainability and the environment would not be possible without the help from all parties involved!

UConn’s 2015 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

UConn’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) has led to the implementation of several notable projects and initiatives. The CAP outlines plans to improve sustainability under the following categories: transportation, energy, and sustainable development. In Spring 2012, UConn added an adaptation section to work in conjunction with its mitigation strategies. This section is focused on UConn’s research, outreach and service roles, as we seek to provide resources for improving the climate resiliency of communities throughout the state and region.  The mitigation strategies in UConn’s CAP serve to identify the emissions reduction benefits and cost effectiveness of potential action items. The Office of Environmental Policy’s current emissions targets call for a 20% decrease in emissions by 2020 and 30% by 2025. UConn’s overall progression includes:

  • Class III Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) generated by UConn’s Co-Generation Facility, sold to finance energy efficiency projects across campus
  • 134 re-lamping projects completed for more than $700,000 per year savings in energy costs and over 5,000 Tons eCO2 avoided
  • 19 retro-commissioning projects completed for  $2.2 million per year savings in energy costs and more than 12,000 Tons eCO2 avoided
  • LEED Silver certification requirement for all new building and renovations over $5 million
  • Several variable-frequency drive (VFD) projects optimizing heating and cooling in buildings for around 1,000 Tons eCO2 avoided
  • Long-term electricity purchasing agreement with ConEd for 40% of purchased electricity comprised of renewable energy
  • Over 15% decrease in water consumption, despite 23% growth in user population from 2005-2014
  • Agricultural/organic waste composting facility operating at maximum load of 800 tons per year
  • Connecticut Institute for Resiliency and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) established in January 2014
  • 400 kW fuel cell and 7 kW solar array, providing electricity, heating, and cooling to the Depot campus
  • 8 kW solar array on top of the reclaimed water facility
  • Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge pledge signed: 5 active EV charging stations and an expanding EV fleet
  • Transportation fleet now includes 15 hybrid vehicles and 12 plug-in EVs, including the EStar campus van (15% of the light-duty fleet)

UConn is still on track to meet its 20% interim reduction goal by 2020. This is being achieved primarily through on-going LED re-lamping projects in buildings, parking lots, and walkways, and with the replacement of old, inefficient steam pipes. These projects are expected to be completed between 2015 and 2020 and will yield an annual 13,265 ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. With all of these developments, UConn continues to strive toward carbon neutrality and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the years to come. UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy uses the University of New Hampshire Campus Carbon Calculator (CCC) to store and track greenhouse gas information.ghg emissions

Electricity, heating, ventilation and air conditioning for buildings account for over 80% of the university’s carbon footprint based on current calculations which do not fully account for scope 3 emissions. As it can be seen above, a 12.9% decrease since 2007 is observed when the effects of natural gas curtailment are included. Curtailment occurs when the weather is especially cold and demand on the natural gas pipeline is high. This forces UConn to burn fuel oil instead of natural gas. On average, each day of natural gas curtailment results in 50,000 gallons of oil being consumed by the co-generation plant (a net release of 250 tons eCO2 per day*).

When natural gas curtailment is ignored, an 18.1% decrease in eCO2 emissions since 2007 is observed. It can be noted that the direct emissions sources from the university are decreasing, but with more cold weather affecting the local area, the amount of curtailment days has continued to increase. In the winter months of 2015, there were 30 days of natural gas curtailment, compared to 14 the prior year, and only 3 in 2012. Fortunately, the natural gas infrastructure in Connecticut is being expanded, so it is likely that we will not have further curtailment days next winter.

In addition, new building construction has accounted for a majority of Direct Source Emissions increase in recent years. A breakdown of UConn’s emission sources can be seen below.emissions by source

*In recent years, each day of natural gas curtailment was estimated at an extra 500 tons of eCO2 per day. This has been adjusted to 250 tons of eCO2 per day based on conversations with compliance staff.

Energy Summit-hosted by Connecticut Light and Power

On Tuesday, February 18, representatives from CL&P hosted an energy summit at the Nathan Hale Inn to collaborate with UConn’s energy employees as well as members from other departments and determine next steps for the University’s energy goals.  The summit started off with a recap of what UConn is currently working on and what successes the University has accomplished thus far.  For example, in the past three years UConn has prevented 39,370 tons of coal and 117,985 barrels of oil from being burned.  Additionally, we were ranked #1 in 2013 for Sierra Club’s Cool Schools Survey.  Going forward UConn plans to mitigate the impact of a growing university through behavior change in the community, retrocommissioning of old buildings, and making sure that all new buildings are as energy efficient as possible.

CL&P invited Walt Henry, a former professor at MIT and current energy consultant to share his experiences at MIT with UConn.  According to Henry, an energy efficient building does not have to cost more than a standard building. “A building is like a cake,” he said “the ingredients in the cake itself are what’s most important, not the frosting and cherry.”  What he means by this is that all you need to do in order to make an energy efficient building within budget is to spend your money in the right places.  Instead of focusing on fancy extras that may seem important, you should focus on using the right materials in the right places.  For example, instead of spending money on limestone, use cast stone.  It is less expensive and works just as well.  You should however invest the money on good spray foam insulation and windows since air tight walls increase efficiency.

Henry ended his presentation with some key take-aways that may help UConn when making the designs for new buildings. For one thing, architects and engineers must collaborate so that the structure of the building and the internals work together.  Also it is important to take intelligent risks, knowing what could possibly go wrong, but not being afraid to be a leader in sustainable building.  Finally, Henry noted his opinion on how LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-a current ranking system for many green buildings) should not drive the design of a new building.  The planners should make the best building they can and then use LEED as a yardstick.  This way, they have the chance to be innovative and possibly even make a better building than LEED calls for.

Going forward, UConn still has many things to consider and there is always room for improvement.  However, meetings like this increase collaboration among UConn departments, our partner CL&P, and other universities to help turn the best ideas into reality one step at a time.


LEED: Minimizing UConn’s Environmental Footprint

by OEP intern Emily McInerney

leedsilverOn March 25, 2008 President Hogan signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This pledge led way for UConn’s Climate Action Plan: a comprehensive outline that strategizes and maps out sustainability initiatives to help UConn reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Carbon neutrality is defined as proportional amounts of carbon released and carbon sequestered. This can be achieved through carbon offsets such as our Co-gen facility or something as simple as planting a tree. Realistically, however, carbon neutrality does not mean a zero carbon footprint. For UConn, the aim is to have the 2050 carbon emissions 86% below our 2007 levels. One of the very first initiatives implemented at UConn to lower GHG emissions was the adoption of our own Campus Sustainable Design Guidelines. These guidelines apply to both the construction of new buildings as well as the renovation of preexisting buildings.

The Sustainable Design and Construction Policy requires a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification as a minimum performance standard for all projects that exceed $5 million. The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED to act as an international green building certification system. LEED buildings offer savings in water and energy, reduce GHG emissions, improve air quality to promote health safety for occupants, and lower operating costs.

Oak Hall
Oak Hall

Most recently, the construction of two new buildings at UConn, Laurel and Oak Hall, have been completed that fulfill the LEED silver requirement. Oak Hall is set next to Homer Babbidge Library at the site of the former Co-op. Laurel is located where the Pharmacy building was originally constructed. These locations prevented the clearing of forests, wetlands, and other natural environments. There are several sustainable features that are important to note. From the outside, porous pavement reduces storm water runoff and flooding by providing storage and infiltration during storm events and a bio retention basin reduces harmful storm water runoff by collecting and holding storm water. The area is lined with native vegetation that provides habitat and food for local species. To reduce transportation CO2 emissions, biking is encouraged. There are 132 bicycle rack spaces available to facilitate bike transit.

Moving inside the building, the focus is on increased energy and water savings. The bathroom offers dual flush toilets and electric hand dryers to reduce paper waste. The combination of all water efficient features is anticipated to reduce water usage by 48%. The high performance windows both increase natural lighting which reduces energy costs and provide insulation through window glazing which reduce heating and cooling needs. Laurel is expected to have 16% energy savings and Oak is estimated to have 18% energy savings.

Visually speaking, LEED buildings are most notable for the recycled content and renewable materials that comprise their exterior paneling and interior walls and floors. Oak Hall uses bamboo for wall panels, recycled copper for the exterior siding and regional bricks. The bamboo is more sustainable than wood because it only take 3-5 years to harvest, the copper is made up of 80-95% recycled content, and the bricks are produced within 500 miles of campus. Approximately 75% of construction waste was diverted from landfills and reused or recycled.

Beyond sustainability, LEED buildings also have health benefits. Indoor environmental quality is improved through green cleaning products that are biodegradable, have low toxicity and low volatile organic compound content (VOC), and have reduced packaging. All plywood is formaldehyde-free and adhesives, sealants and paint have low or no VOC. Both Oak and Laurel are definite eye catchers. These buildings are not only environmentally friendly and cost effective but also aesthetically pleasing.  It is something to appreciate that sustainability can be characterized as modern and hip. For those interested in seeing how these LEED buildings affect UConn’s GHG emissions, the Office of Environmental Policy is planning to upload energy and water saving dashboards online.

Here are some examples of the sustainability features in Oak and Laurel Halls:

UConn’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory: Taking Stock of our Climate Progress and My Last Two Years

In my two years as a Sustainability Intern with the Office of Environmental Policy, I have been placed in a very interesting role. I have compiled the three greenhouse gas emission inventories for the Storrs campus from 2009 up though last year, 2011. This task has proven to be something I can look back on and be proud of and something that I think the University can also look back on and be proud of.

History and Purpose

The greenhouse gas inventory documents all the sources of emissions from the University that contribute to global warming, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and many others. The University has voluntarily tracking this information to some degree since 2003 although thorough inventories did not begin until 2007.

In 2008, then President Michael Hogan made the University a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (PCC) at the request of large student support. The PCC is a pledge by institutions of higher education to reach a goal of climate neutrality by the year 2050. Signatories must have submitted an outline of how they would reduce their emissions to the 2050 target in a document known as a Climate Action Plan in order to become a part of the PCC. Additionally, participating institutions must provide annual greenhouse gas inventories and biannual progress updates.

Making Progress

In general our largest source of emissions each year has been from on campus stationary sources such as the cogeneration plant (which supplies most of the Storrs campus with electricity and steam), boilers (to produce additional steam for heating), chillers (which produce chilled water for cooling buildings), and generators (for emergency power). In fact, going back to 2001, this source of emissions has never accounted for less than 75% of the total campus emissions.

[/caption]This indicates that decreasing the demand for electricty, steam, and chilled water on campus is worthwhile strategy for reducing the amount of emissions generated each year.

The University of Connecticut has gone to great lengths to make its buildings significantly more energy efficient over the last few years. Some of the energy-saving initiatives have included replacement of lighting fixtures and bulbs, the annual EcoMadness energy conservation competition, and the sustainable design and construction guidelines.

Dot-plot with a moving average showing the amount of energy emissions per student for the years 2001 through 2010.
In 2010, 77% of emissions come from either fuel burnt at the cogeneration plant or from stationary sources like generators and chillers.The above graph shows that over time UConn has been able to produce less greenhouse gas emissions on a per student basis over the years. This is especially amazing considering that the student population at UConn has grown by nearly 40% over that time and campus building space has grown by just over 30%. One key to this success has included the construction of the cogeneration system in the central utility plant, which provides UConn with electricity and steam in a more efficient manner than the grid can. Another has been the University’s policy requiring major construction and renovation projects since 2008 to meet a minimum LEED Silver rating, such as the Burton-Schenkman football training complex.
The University also has small emission contributions from other categories like transportation, fertilizer application, and refrigerants (which are actually incredibly potent greenhouse gases). Some of the emissions are offset by the UConn forest and its new composting operation.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="481"]A dot-plot showing the emissions from 2007 through 2010. A line has been fitted over the past four years’ data to approximate the trend in how UConn’s emissions have been going.

Form 2007 to 2010, the overall emissions dropped by about 6,000 MT eCO2 per year, which is the equivalent of taking about 120 passenger cars off the road each of those years. This is a 3% annual decline.

This is a promising trend considering the fact that the number of full-time students increased 6% over those three years, part-time students by 10%, and summer students by 68%. Although there was a significant drop in building space from 2007 to 2008, building space increased from 2008 to 2010 increased by 3.5%.

Summing It All Up

Working on the greenhouse gas inventory has been immensely rewarding. I personally worked on the greenhouse gas inventories as far back as 2008 and I was the primary intern who worked on the 2009-2011 inventories. Not only am I proud to see my work produce these useful metrics for evaluating our steps towards sustainability, but I am also proud to have been a part of something that connects so much of the University together.

For each inventory I had to contact tens of people for information on a huge variety of sources. I received data from sources involved in generating power on campus as well as sources involved in generating compost (which now includes the agricultural compost facility, the floriculture program, many of the campus dining halls, the Spring Valley Farm living and learning community, and the EcoGarden student group). There is just something incredibly exciting to take bits and pieces from so many staff and faculty members and then have the opportunity to show them how their contribution to campus sustainability fits in at our annual spring Environmental Policy Advisory Council (EPAC) meeting.

I am excited that in less than one month I can honestly tell them that our University has reduced its emissions by 9% in three years, even as campus and the student body grew. And most exciting is that the 2011 inventory is nearing completion and it is so far promising our largest reduction to date.

Even when I felt things were not working in favor of sustainability on campus, I could still look at the inventory and know that the University has made and is still making a great and concerted effort to reducing our environmental footprint — and I would hope everyone can see this as well. (We did after all finish 16th in the Sierra Club Cool Schools survey last year, in part thanks to our third best overall score of 9.5/10 in energy efficiency — so even if we accidentally leave a few lights on, rest assured that we’ve done our best to make them “waste” as little energy as possible.)

So ultimately I would remind everyone, as an outgoing intern and as a graduating senior, that you must not let good be the enemy of perfection; take time to appreciate your progress every so often. But likewise, do not rest on your laurels, especially when you have shown in the past just how much you can accomplish.

Written by…

Chris Berthiaume is a senior in Environmental Engineering and a second year intern with the OEP. His major projects have included the greenhouse gas inventory, updating the website, social media engagement, and the assisting with the 2012 EocHusky 5k.