Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, June 7, 2010

U-M makes major commitment to ‘green’ buildings

The university has adopted LEED Silver certification as its standard for major new construction projects. The new policy builds upon an existing U-M commitment to exceed by 30 percent a widely recognized energy efficiency standard, giving the university one of the most rigorous construction standards among higher education institutions in the nation.

For more information

View photos and descriptions of U-M LEED projects.
• Learn more about sustainability at U-M.

“Adopting this standard demonstrates our deep commitment to sustainable campus operations, complementing our educational and research programs in this area,” says U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who last fall launched a campuswide initiative to significantly expand the university’s sustainability efforts in education, research, operations and engagement. “We must practice what we preach.”

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a standard created by the U.S. Green Building Council. The USGBC provides independent, third-party certification that takes into account, among other items, water efficiency, indoor air quality, site selection (such as proximity to existing infrastructure and mass transit), use of sustainable materials in construction (such as sustainably grown and recycled products), and energy reduction. LEED offers four categories: certified, silver, gold and platinum, based on a point system.

Sustainability background

U-M’s Sustainability Initiative builds on a history of accomplishment to create a sustainable campus.

Highlights include:

• In the 1960s, U-M’s Central Power Plant became one of the first university operations in the nation to convert from coal to clean, highly efficient cogeneration natural gas. The plant produces just one-sixth of the greenhouse gases of a coal-fired plant.

• Recycling began 40 years ago, in 1970. It now diverts 33 percent of the waste stream from landfills.

• The 40-year-old van pool program carries more than 500 commuting employees.

• U-M was an early participant in the EPA Energy Star program, initiated in 1998, and the EPA designated U-M its Partner of the Year in 2004.

• U-M has constructed sedimentation ponds to divert stormwater runoff into the Huron River from 160 acres in Ann Arbor.

• A solar array on the Central Power Plant saves 250 million BTUs a year.

• A central chiller plant saves 50 billion BTUs and 2.5 million gallons of water a year.

In fiscal year 2004, U-M began systematically monitoring and reporting environmental progress.

Fiscal year 2009 findings include:

• A 19 percent decrease in energy use over five years normalized to population and space.

• A 7.1 percent decrease in per capita water use over five years.

• Six million campus bus riders, up 56 percent since 2005.

• The largest university alternative energy fleet in the country: 596 vehicles running on biofuels.

U-M programs serve as models for change:

• Planet Blue deploys a combination of strategies to reduce energy consumption in U-M buildings. Technical teams fine-tune systems and upgrade HVAC, while outreach teams engage occupants in conservation programs. Planet Blue achieved $480,000 in cost avoidance in 2009, and reduced energy use by 11 percent in five pilot buildings. The program is being expanded to embrace more of the campus.

• MRide, a 5-year-old collaboration of U-M and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, increased bus ridership 56 percent since 2005. MRide enables faculty, students and staff to ride free, reduces single-occupancy vehicle use and enhances the financial viability of public transportation.

U-M buildings that already have achieved LEED certification include the Gold LEED Dana Building, home of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Silver LEED Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Two projects under construction, the Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospitals Replacement Project and a new Law School academic building are on track for LEED certification.

U-M’s new LEED policy builds upon a history of sustainable features already part of its standard design guidelines, and is in addition to the ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007+30 standard it adopted in 2009, which mandates that major projects be 30 percent more energy efficient than the nationally recognized standard set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers. This standard requires a range of energy conservation measures, such as insulation, motion sensors and infrared scanning to detect energy leaks.

“This new commitment builds on a long history of accomplishment in sustainability on the campus,” says Terry Alexander, executive director of campus sustainability, who oversees the implementation and expansion of efforts related to the sustainability of campus operations. “Moving forward, we are setting even more aggressive goals.”

In the 1960s, U-M’s Central Power Plant became one of the first university operations in the nation to convert from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas using cogeneration technology. The plant produces just one-sixth of the greenhouse gases of a coal-fired plant and is approximately 80 percent efficient in fuel use. Other measures currently under way have driven down per capita energy consumption by 19 percent in the last five years.

In an effort to take sustainability commitments to a new level, U-M launched the Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment earlier this year. This major project has teams of students, faculty and operations professionals evaluating data from across campus and making recommendations that address seven key areas: buildings, energy, transportation, land and water, food and waste, purchased goods and behavior change.

“This integrated assessment will give us a detailed and comprehensive look at our operations, allowing the university to set ambitious goals that take into account interrelationships across these functions,” says Donald Scavia, special counsel to the U-M president for sustainability. “We also believe this approach can serve as a model for other organizations.”

The integrated assessment is being conducted as part of the U-M Sustainability Initiative, a major universitywide priority jointly coordinated by Alexander and Scavia to take sustainability to a new level by effectively engaging stakeholders in efforts to “green” the campus, generate groundbreaking research, and prepare the next generation of leaders to help solve the world’s sustainability problems. The initiative is overseen by an executive council of senior university executives led by Coleman.

U-M Sustainability fosters a more sustainable world through collaborations across campus and beyond aimed at educating students, generating new knowledge and minimizing our environmental footprint.