Facilities and Campus Services have been hard at work over the last few years trying to reduce the university’s energy consumption amid rapidly rising fuel costs. As the manifold initiatives draw to completion, the university has begun to reap the rewards. Since June of 2007, the university’s overall electricity consumption has decreased by 7 percent despite an increase in the number of occupants at the university, as the freshman class size has increased each year.
Though much of these savings can be credited to a university wide migration to energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs and massive building lighting system overhauls, Mike Draughn, director of maintenance and utilities services, says that the university community has played a significant role in decreasing electricity consumption. “Regardless of how efficient we make our campus systems, the lowest energy use is something that’s off,” Draughn said. “We believe we are seeing the beginning of more widespread awareness (of energy issues). Every class that comes in is more energy savvy than the previous class.”
And the university hopes to see even greater savings in the coming years. Upgrades to the lighting systems in eight buildings on the Reynolda Campus will finish up this summer, resulting not only in decreased energy consumption from new energy efficient systems, but increased savings for the university. The upgrades are projected to pay for themselves in 5-6 years. “Hopefully in a year we will see a reduction (in electricity consumption) that will help offset the rising costs and bringing two new buildings online,” Draughn said.
In addition to these upgrades, many academic and administrative buildings on campus are now heated and cooled using occupancy schedules. With occupancy schedules which are similar to the Holiday Setback Program, but much less drastic, the buildings are allowed to float a couple degrees at night and on weekends to maximize efficiency while keeping the buildings comfortable. The eleven-day Holiday Setback period in 2009 saved the university nearly $60,000 in avoided electricity and steam costs.
What’s more, Facilities and Campus Services has just been budgeted to hire the university’s first ever Energy Manager who, it is hoped, will open the university up to even more energy saving opportunities. The university will begin the search for the new Energy Manager soon, but it could take six months or more to find the right person, Draughn said.
Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern