The University Record, October 14, 1998

EPA recognizes University’s energy conservation efforts

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Grad LibraryAlthough some of the effects won’t be measurable for a while, the U-M will continue to forge ahead with a program that gained it recognition by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week.

Celebrating Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library’s completion of the five stages in the Energy Star program guidelines, EPA assistant administrator Robert Perciasepe commended the University for “this step along the way in the relentless march to cut down on pollution.” The five-step stairway to energy efficiency saved the environment from nearly five million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions just from that building, Perciasepe said.

The Graduate Library was the pilot building for a project that Donald Lystra says eventually will reach the U-M’s 120 core buildings, beginning with replacing lighting fixtures with more energy efficient fluorescent ones. Lighting retrofits have been completed in 18 of the buildings. Because they have been installed for a relatively short time, measuring the energy savings is not as accurate as it would be over a whole year, Lystra says, but to date buildings equipped with the new fixtures have experienced about a 12 percent reduction.

The Graduate Library, with all five of the steps completed, hopes to realize a 10-to-15 percent reduction in energy use over the next year---between $150,000 and $200,000, Lystra estimates.

Because the Energy Star building energy conservation program fit so well with the University’s own vision of cost reduction, energy conservation and pollution abatement, the U-M signed an agreement with the EPA to participate in the program and incorporate in its efforts the five-step plan:

• Install high efficiency ballast’s and lamps in fluorescent light fixtures. These lamps have an added advantage---their light more closely resembles daylight.

• Tune up and repair mechanical systems within the buildings. This includes steam traps, valves, dampers and other heating and air conditioning components.

• Reduce the load on current heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning system improvements, including replacement, if warranted, of water and air systems.

• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning plant improvements (replacing boilers and chillers with more efficient equipment).

Celebrating the University’s success in completing the first year of the program, Henry Baier, interim associate vice president for business operations, commended the program not only for the benefits of pollution and energy reduction but for the opportunity for students and staff to work together and learn from each other.

Baier noted that the energy saved in the Hatcher project was enough to power 300 homes in Washtenaw County for a year.

He also indicated that in 1997 the University recycled 130,000 lights that contained mercury, removing 10 pounds out of the environmental cycle. “That may seem like a small amount, but it is a significant figure because mercury is so persistent in the environment,” he said.

Claude Bailey, an automotive engineering graduate student is in his second year of working on the Energy Star program. He and other students---a total of 15yworked last year to gather data on the buildings, mark equipment and count lighting fixtures.

“I wanted a job that wasn’t just pushing papers,” Bailey said at the recognition ceremony, “one where I could apply my knowledge and use my communication skills.” He said that the information he has gained about energy conservation will help him in his career in the automotive industry.

“Everyone was willing to share information with me. Coming to work every day was exciting.”

William Gosling, interim director of University Libraries, noted that while many of the changes in the building were “behind the scenes,” the new lighting fixtures are “more aesthetically pleasing” and will result in less wear and tear on the library’s many volumes from exposure to light.

The energy savings will directly benefit the libraries financially, he added, “because some of the dollars will be returned to us.”

Under the program, buildings that are refitted to be more energy-efficient and reduce pollution will also share in some of the savings, increasing the incentive for them to participate.

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