THE U’S IMPACT ON AIR QUALITY

Orginally posted on @theU on February 19, 2019.

By Myron Willson, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer

The inversion season is upon us. This can be a time to point fingers at other polluters, but it should also be a time to recognize our own contributions to the murky haze and examine what steps we are taking to reduce emissions, including those emissions created by our actions at work and school.

So, what is our own university doing to reduce emissions? The university (health sciences and lower campus) is often likened to a small city with the total population of faculty, staff and students exceeding 60,000. This means that we have a fairly significant potential for creating emissions.

Fortunately, in addition to supporting faculty who are conducting research on various aspects of air quality and its impacts, the university is also proactively identifying areas for emissions reductions. In 2014, leadership authorized the first universitywide emissions review resulting in a report that provided recommendations for infrastructure and operational changes. Some areas identified:

  • Efficiency improvements and controls for large natural gas-powered boilers for building heat and hot water
  • Emergency diesel generator replacement
  • Phasing out dirty gas-powered landscaping equipment and replacing with electric options
  • Reducing and controlling chemicals and solvents used in laboratories, shops, etc.
  • Increasing sustainable commuting (including bicycles, public transit and car sharing)

As resources have allowed, many of these recommendations have already been implemented. Numerous changes have been driven by the dedicated staff in facilities’ Sustainability and Energy Management OfficePlanning Design and ConstructionCommuter Services, as well as the Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Office.  At this point, nearly 50 percent of the recommendations have been or are being addressed.

  • Many equipment upgrades have been completed at the central heating plant and operation has been optimized for efficient fuel use.
  • The landscaping team is investing in the electrification of equipment and has implemented a moratorium on gas-fired equipment on yellow and red AQ days.
  • The “Better-Buildings Challenge” has been fully funded and will result in a 20 percent reduction of energy use per square foot by 2020.
  • Based on feedback from the Sustainability Office, the Clear the Air Challenge has shifted from July to February to include students among other campus commuters.
  • A full-time active transportation manager position has been established along with funding for infrastructure changes to support non-vehicular transport.

These actions are netting results. Even as the campus has grown (both in numbers of students and building square footage) total emissions have nearly leveled out or decreased. Close to 50 percent of our faculty, staff and students come to campus each day in something other than a single-occupant vehicle (making us very competitive with other Pac-12 institutions according to the latest reports).

Recent building projects on campus, such as Gardner Commons, have been designed to produce minimal emissions as the systems for heating and cooling are electric. Almost no on-site emissions are created. In addition, as the university continues to increase its purchase of renewable electricity (geothermal and solar), emissions due to the operations of buildings like Gardner Commons will be nearly zero.

Going forward, new federal and state requirements for business and institutions related to air quality are likely to become more restrictive. University leadership has asked staff to review the 2015 Air Quality Task Force Report, provide recommendations for further reductions and lead the way in reducing emissions. Stay tuned for an update.

These are all reasons for optimism. So, on days when our air isn’t fit to breathe and we make a conscious choice to reduce our own emissions, we can rest assured that the university is doing its part too.

Throughout February, take action on air quality by tracking your commute behaviors with the Clear the Air Challenge, a statewide competition that aims to reduce emissions from vehicles by promoting alternative transit options. Join the U team at travelwisetracker.com/s/university-of-utah.

Searching for ‘Soul’-utions

“Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul’-utions for Earthly Survival.”

The Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC) seminar series presents a lecture by Giovanna Di Chiro, Lang Professor for Issues of Social Change at Swarthmore College.

By Nicholas Apodaca, graduate assistant, Sustainability Office

When we talk about sustainability, we might assume that progressive science policy would naturally uplift and strengthen all communities. Yet in the scientific and political discourse around sustainable practices, many marginalized groups are ignored, despite often being the most vulnerable in our current climate crises. If we are going to fight climate change and build a sustainable world, we need to analyze the contemporary environmental discourse and seek social justice for those most affected.

Giovanna Di Chiro, the Lang Professor for Issues of Social Change at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, has dedicated her career to intersectional scholarship on environmental justice, sustainability and public policy. On February 12, as part of the Global Change and Sustainability Center’s Seminar Series, Professor Di Chiro will share her innovative work in her lecture, “Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul’-utions for Earthly Survival.”

Di Chiro began her academic career in biology, then pivoted towards social issues and completed an interdisciplinary Ph.D.  in Environment, Health, and Development at the University of California Santa Cruz. Since then, she has worked in marine and tropical biology, but has always pursued innovative interdisciplinary methods of connecting social justice to science and policy.

Teaching plays an important role in Di Chiro’s work. Drawing on her own experiences as a graduate student, Di Chiro approaches the classroom as a space for cooperation and dialogue. She draws on the pedagogy of Paulo Freire, a radical Brazilian priest who saw the classroom as a space for cultivating intellectuals through critical exploration of inequality and justice. Di Chiro has brought her innovative teaching to universities from Australia to California to Massachusetts, guiding students in community-based learning methods that revolve around those impacted by environmental injustice and creating inclusive spaces for marginalized voices in the classroom.

Di Chiro’s research has often focused on the critical intersection of science policy and social justice. Her first book, Appropriating Technology: Vernacular Science and Social Power, was published in 2004 to critical acclaim. The book traced various case studies around the appropriation of technologies for social justice efforts by activists and marginalized communities.

Currently De Chiro is working on an exciting project titled Embodied Ecologies: Building a Different World on Earth, which draws on feminist theory and activism to explore the lack of inclusion of marginalized peoples and community advocacy in contemporary environmental science and policy discussions.

Outside the classroom, Di Chiro has a long-standing commitment to working with underprivileged communities. While teaching at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, she partnered with Nuestras Raíces, supporting the environmental justice organization’s mission through grant writing and developing local training programs around sustainable development, community agriculture and environmental health. Di Chiro was part of a community partnership that founded Energia, a community-based energy services corporation committed to the “triple bottom line:” employing low income community members, developing a management structure centered on a workers’ cooperative, and promoting energy conservation and general sustainability.

In Pennsylvania, Di Chiro has been working closely with community leaders in North Philadelphia to meet the sustainability needs of underserved and marginalized communities. This has led to the Serenity Soul-ar Collaborative, a unique partnership that pursues environmental justice for predominantly Black, low-income residents in the transition to sustainable green energy in the rapidly gentrifying North Philadelphia. By pushing for sustainable development that is locally-owned and tied to the strong cultural history of black communities in the area, the Serenity Soul-ar Collaborative intends to keep the “soul” in the transition to renewable energy sources.

In her lecture for the Global Change and Sustainability Center’s Seminar Series, “Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul-tions for Earthly Survival,” Di Chiro will explore the challenges, successes, and lessons of her work in sustainability and social justice, and what it means for the future of our world. Come by ASB 210 on February 12 from 4 – 5 PM to learn more.

 

SHEDDING LIGHT

How the project benefited the library

Then: Lights in the Special Collections area were typically on 10-13 hours per day

Now: Lights now are only activated when there is activity and only in the area where that activity is occurring

Then: A compact fluorescent bulb is 54 watts, lasts about 10,000 hours and produces heat

Now: An LED bulb is 25 watts, lasts about 50,000 hours and doesn’t produce heat.

Originally posted on @theU on November 26, 2018.

By Brooke Adams, senior news writer, University of Utah Communications

Paper and photographs can’t take the heat. Or the light.

Both elements cause historic, fragile documents to breakdown over time, much to the dismay of curators of the Special Collections at the Marriott Library.

Enter a trio of students — Sierra Govett, Dillon Seglem and Yinhuan Huang — in search of a project for Jennifer J. Follstad Shah’s environmental and sustainability studies capstone class last spring.

Govett initially proposed they tackle excessive light use across campus, especially at times when buildings are unoccupied.

“A lot of buildings on campus have lights on more than they should and we wanted to find some place we could address lighting at a large enough scale to make a difference, said Govett.

But the students abandoned that idea after realizing vast differences in lighting systems from floor-to-floor and building-to-building would make a standardized solution impossible.

Bill Leach, sustainability project coordinator for Facilities Management, suggested the students instead look at what might be done to address lighting concerns in the Marriott Library. Ian Godfrey, director of library facilities, was “not only excited about the prospect of a lighting controls project, but had an area in mind,” Leach said.

That area? Special Collections.

Leach, Godfrey and Emerson Andrews, Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) coordinator, helped the students conduct an audit of the space, come up with a plan and develop a budget.

Light and heat take a toll on fragile documents in the Marriott Library’s Special Collections area. PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah

Their idea: install a new lighting system with LED bulbs that are motion and daylight sensitive. Lights above each row activate only when someone moves into the area and there is insufficient daylight.

“To take light off these resources is a huge benefit for us,” Godfrey said. “Everything in here is rare and unique. Paper is always in a state of degradation. Anytime you are lowering the temperature and reducing the heat, you are slowing the deterioration process.”

The students applied for and received a SCIF revolving loan of $40,000, which paid for installation of a new lighting system over the summer. The loan fund is specifically used for energy and money saving ideas proposed by students, faculty and staff for energy conservation, renewable energy production and water conservation projects. A Rocky Mountain Power wattsmart incentive grant helped off-set some of the project’s cost.

The library will repay the loan over 13 years, using money from utility cost savings. But the impact — both monetary and in preservation of its collections — will be ongoing.

“I am thrilled that this project, initiated by these three students in my capstone class, is coming to fruition and will help to reduce the campus carbon footprint while preserving library resources,” said Follstad Shah, an assistant professor in environmental and sustainability studies and research assistant professor in geography.

The SCIF revolving loan fund used in the project is available to all students, faculty and staff who have an idea for saving energy and money. It has paid for other energy projects, such as solar panels and heating system upgrades, but this is the first lighting project, said Myron Willson, deputy chief sustainability officer.

“We were pretty excited to do something that made such a difference,” said Govett, who graduated last spring with degrees in environmental studies and ballet.

Govett and Seglem toured the retrofitted space for the first time in mid-November.

“It’s really cool to come in here and see it working with the motion sensors and all,” said Seglem, a senior majoring in environmental studies.

THE WASATCH FRONT: A LIVING LAB

Originally posted on @theU on September 17, 2018

By Paul Gabrielsen, science writer, University of Utah Communications

University of Utah scientists know how to turn a challenge into an opportunity. Repeatedly, researchers at the U have developed innovative research solutions to some of the Salt Lake Valley’s most serious environmental issues. Light rail trains sample the air as they dart around the valley. Camera traps keep their eyes on the wildlife in mountain canyons. Climate and hydrological observations track rain, snow, plant stress, groundwater and streamflow from the mountain crest to the valley floor.

All of these environmental factors—earth, air, water and life—are interconnected, though. A change in one has the potential to impact any or all of the others. So how do U researchers respond to this extraordinary complexity? By banding together. This fall, the U launches a new university-wide collaboration called the Wasatch Environmental Observatory.

“We’ve talked about campus as a living lab, and faculty have gotten grants to develop research infrastructure throughout the Wasatch Front,” says Brenda Bowen, director of the Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC). “We have all this infrastructure and we thought: ‘How can we pull this together in a new way to not just study campus as a living lab, but our home, the whole Wasatch Front?’”

This observatory isn’t a single facility like, say, an astronomical observatory. It’s a network of sensors and instruments, stretched all across the Wasatch Front, that collectively monitor multiple environmental metrics. “We’re pulling together all of the systems that were initially funded by individual researchers or large multi-researcher grants to make it into something more than the sum of its parts,” Bowen says.

Part of the observatory is relatively stationary, providing consistent, long-term data. But part is portable and deployable, Bowen says. “As events occur, we can deploy infrastructure into a certain area by pulling together hydrologic, atmospheric and ecological research facilities into a distributed observatory or field station.”

Paul Brooks, professor of geology and geophysics, says that the observatory is a framework for future projects and infrastructure to be added in. State, federal and local agencies, he says, have already expressed interest in tying their instrumentation into the WEO network. The measurements and results from WEO can then be used by those stakeholder agencies. “That’s one of the exciting areas of WEO,” Brooks says. “It takes the new knowledge generated by students and faculty and ports it through as quickly as possible to people on the ground who use that knowledge to make better decisions.”

For Bowen and the GCSC, which brings together faculty from across campus to study environmental issues, WEO is a fulfillment of the center’s mission. “It’s realizing what GCSC strives to be,” Bowen says. “WEO will help integrate everything we’re doing to advance sustainability in our own backyard.” 

WEO will be led by a committee of six faculty members (including Bowen and Brooks) hailing from the departments of Geology & Geophysics, Atmospheric Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the School of Biological Sciences. Beyond that, nearly 40 researchers from 13 different departments and eight colleges already have research or outreach projects associated with WEO.

According to a project summary from GCSC, current facilities to be linked together through WEO include:

  • Distributed hydroclimate, meteorological, biological and hydrological observations in seven catchments spanning the Wasatch Crest through the Great Salt Lake including six closely spaced stations spanning an elevation gradient from the top of Red Butte Creek down through campus and on to the Jordan River
  • Experimental stormwater, landscape, transportation, and architectural design infrastructure on campus
  • Long-term ecological, geological, and snow study sites
  • Seven atmospheric trace gas and climate stations from Hidden Peak (Snowbird) to the Salt Lake Valley floor
  • Light rail-based atmospheric observations distributed across land use and elevational gradients in the Salt Lake Valley (TRAX)
  • Deployable and relocatable high-precision atmospheric and hydrologic observation equipment
  • Co-Located, long-term, and spatially extensive databases from multiple disciplines

All of that equipment requires service, repair and maintenance. So WEO provides for two full-time research technical specialists, Dave Eiriksson and Ryan Bares, to keep the sensors running.

Brooks says the interconnectedness of the WEO sensor systems allows researchers to study the impacts on one environmental system, say, urban development, on others, such as the quality of water in urban streams.

“The idea is that each individual solution we have exists in a broader context,” Brooks says. “We want to be as comprehensive as possible so that the solution to one issue doesn’t then create a new problem down the line that perhaps we didn’t think of.”

Brooks adds that the U is uniquely positioned, with researchers and facilities, to study environmental issues common throughout the West.

“WEO brings those researchers and resources together,” he says, “so instead of addressing these issues piecemeal we have the ability to address them in concert.”

Want to join in?

If you’re considering or conducting environmental research along the Wasatch Front, come to a think tank mixer presented by GCSC on Sept. 26, from 5-7 p.m. at the College of Law, sixth floor, Flynn Faculty Workshop.

Learn more and register here.

 

5 GREEN FEATURES

Originally posted on @theU on September 10, 2018

By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University of Utah Communications

The newly opened Gardner Commons building, which replaced Orson Spencer Hall, was designed with sustainability at its core. Here are five of its green features:

Looking out towards a carbon-neutral future

Gardner Commons is designed to be 100 percent electric-based. As the U installs and purchases more renewable energy like solar and geothermal, the building will eventually become carbon neutral, with no need for any fossil fuels. This design allows the U to move closer to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

 

 

Looking down to the earth for power

The building is heated and cooled by the first and only geothermal ground-source heat pump on campus. The pump uses the ground as a battery, putting heat into the ground during the summer and taking heat out of the ground during the winter. This is estimated to save more than $70,000 a year in energy costs!

 

 

 

Looking inside for a holistic eating experience

Carolyn’s Kitchen, inside the commons, stocks reusable dishes, silverware and even reusable to-go containers. When it comes to food, this location features a plant-based station that satisfies vegan and vegetarian diets, a rotating station that hosts local vendors including Saffron Valley and local roaster Hugo Coffee, which uses fair trade beans. All this and more makes Carolyn’s Kitchen a holistic eating experience.

 

 

Looking all around for unique, beautiful and ethically sourced building materials

Those funky little dots on the windows? These ‘frits’ act as blinds while still allowing daylight, reducing solar heat gain to the inside of the building and glare from the sun. The horizontal panels on the outside of the building are glass fiber reinforced concrete, made locally. (Other buildings in Salt Lake City with these kinds of panels had them shipped from as far as Germany.) Marble from OSH’s restrooms was repurposed in Gardner to build front entry desks for all departments.

 

 

Don’t forget the Water Conservation Garden

Sandwiched between Gardner Commons and the Eccles School of Business, the Water Conservation Garden will be a beautiful oasis in the middle of campus. Formerly covered with water-consuming grass, the garden will bring water that would be piped through the city’s stormwater drain system to the surface, filter it, use it for irrigation, and send what’s left into the groundwater. The impetus for the garden was an $80,000 grant written by a team of U students and funded by the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund. The students also helped bring Red Butte Garden’s staff and expertise to this campus project. Look for the garden in spring 2019.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Originally published on @theU on August 20, 2018.

By Vince Horiuchi, public relations associate, College of Engineering

Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico last September, which left nearly all the island’s 3.4 million residents without power, is one of the most frightening scenarios for a metropolis: A natural disaster or cyberattack wipes out a city’s power grid.

University of Utah electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Masood Parvania has received a $2 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to build a new laboratory and develop technology that would help communities get their power back online faster in the wake of a natural disaster or cyberattack.
PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering

But University of Utah electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Masood Parvania is building a new laboratory to develop technology that would help communities get their power back online faster in the wake of those kinds of devastating events.

He was awarded a three-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research beginning July 1 to build the lab and research and test technology for microgrids–smaller, more localized versions of a city’s power grid that could provide backup electricity in a catastrophic situation.

When a natural disaster hits, much of a city’s power grid that receives electricity from sources such as thermal and hydroelectric plants, can go dark.

Microgrids are power systems in smaller areas of a city that operate autonomously from the main grid and get electricity from sources like solar panels or energy storage devices. They can provide emergency power to neighborhoods and essential services such as hospitals until the main system is restored. Microgrids can be as small as a building like a college campus or military base that use backup generators, or a large neighborhood that uses wind turbines or geothermal generation. Microgrids, for example, are now being created all over Puerto Rico in the event of future massive power outages.

Parvania and his team at the Utah Smart Energy Lab (U-Smart) will be developing microgrid controllers that act as the computerized brains of a microgrid and determine how to best distribute electrical power in an area. These controllers will be faster, smarter and more secure from cyberattacks, the newest concern for power companies. Two days before Christmas in 2015, for example, Russian hackers remotely attacked the control centers of three Ukrainian electricity distribution companies, briefly wiping out power to more than 200,000 customers.

“Today, power grids are becoming more and more vulnerable with modernization and digitization,” Parvania says. “These microgrid controllers will be faster and more accurate in returning power back to communities. But we also want to make sure that once they work they are not affected by cyberattacks.”

Parvania’s laboratory, which will be built on the University of Utah’s College of Engineering campus, will consist of software and specialized computers called “real-time digital simulators” that will simulate a power system. New technologies that his team develops can be experimented on this new testbed. The laboratory also will be used to help educate the next generation of power engineers who are studying microgrids.

Another component of the research grant involves commercializing any technology that Parvania’s team develops. The University of Utah is partnering with the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, Governor’s Office of Energy Development, Idaho National Lab, and the U’s Office of Technology and Venture Commercialization.

“We are also going to work with utilities, energy companies, and military bases to see how we can commercialize our technology for the betterment of communities,” says Parvania.

 

 

 

 

MARRIOTT LIBRARY’S NEW DANCE

Originally posted in@theU on June 4

By Liz Ivkovich, Sustainability Office

The Marriott Library operates like a complicated piece of choreography.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning goes on and off, and it lets air into and out of the building in an overlapping sequence of operations. This dance is directed by the building automation system — a computer system that monitors the building’s electrical and mechanical equipment and tells each part what to do.

Thanks to the recently completed upgrade to the building automation system, the library is saving $270,000 a year.

The multi-year project began as an effort to better protect collections, with the added benefit of reducing the library’s energy use by 28 percent annually.

The library’s building automation system has to meet many needs at once and prevent various functions from stepping on each other’s toes. The system ensures a comfortable temperature while people are in the library and provides adequate ventilation to protect indoor air quality. It controls the humidity level within a safe range for valuable books and equipment. Additionally, it pressurizes the space so that no cold air leaks into the building. Given this operational complexity, it is not unusual for these systems perform inefficiently. Plus, building automation systems are more robust with today’s technology than when the library was renovated 10 years ago.

The library upgrades addressed both the issue of outdated technology and provided an opportunity for more thoughtfully designed sequences of operation. Much of the work went into rearranging the choreography — changing the order of instructions for the automation system to run more efficiently. By using many of the system’s existing components, Facilities Management was able to lower the price tag of the upgrade.

“If we replaced the entire mechanical system, we’d have had an insanely high cost,” said Chris Benson, Sustainability & Energy program manager. “We carefully chose the sensors, the controllers, and labor to pull wires and really focused on adjusting the sequences of operation. It makes a huge difference to make sure we get the right sequences the building really requires. That’s where we get the best return on investment.”

The upgrades began in 2014 on the first floor, expanded to include special collections on the fourth floor, and all other floors by the project’s conclusion.

In addition to energy reduction, the upgrades will also aid in preservation. Special Collections and its curators and archivists are tasked with safeguarding some of the most valuable assets of the State of Utah. Items held by Special Collections include more than 80,000 rare books, maps and ephemera as well as moving image and sound archives and manuscript collections.

“Whether the collections we have curated are 2,000 years old or printed yesterday, we have a responsibility to ensure they are protected for the university and world communities for generations and mitigating water risks and stabilizing climate control helps us do that,” said Ian Godfrey, director of library facilities.

Not only have the library’s book and paper residents benefited from the upgrades, its human occupants are enjoying more control over their environment. The upgrades enable employees to regularly adjust their thermostats for more comfortable temperatures during chilly winter and hot summer days.

The upgrades wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated work of staff in University Planning, Design & Construction, Marriott Library, Facilities Management, as well as vendors Spectrum Engineers, Wasatch Controls and ETC Group.

With more than 200 campus structures with automation building systems similar to the one in the Marriott Library, the U has many more opportunities to implement these kinds of upgrades. On with the dance…of energy efficiency.

REVOLVING LOAN PAYS LEED GOLD DIVIDENDS

Originally posted in @theU on May 14, 2018

By: Liz Ivkovich, Global Change & Sustainability Center

The building that is home to the College’s Department of Mechanical Engineering has achieved a LEED Gold certification after the building’s latest upgrade – the installation of a solar panel array on the roof. These upgrades were made possible through the support of the university’s Revolving Loan Fund, which provides low interest loans to help reduce carbon emissions on campus.

The architect for the $24-million renovation, Derrick Larm, said the new 34.2-kilowatt solar panel system, which was installed earlier this year and is comprised of four separate panels on the roof, provides an additional 5 percent energy-cost savings per year for the building. The Rio Tinto Kennecott building now is one of seven U buildings on campus with the Gold certification.

The LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification rating by the U.S. Green Building Council for highly efficient, cost-effective green buildings. The Rio Tinto building at 1495 E. 100 South originally achieved a Silver rating when the renovation of the 65-year-old structure was completed in 2015. The Revolving Loan Fund was able to provide the up-front costs for the rooftop solar energy project, which enabled the project to achieve enough credits to earn LEED Gold Certification.

What began as a 54,000-square-foot building built in the 1950s for Kennecott Utah Copper Corp.’s research offices has now become a 76,000-square-foot U lab space with the latest in energy-saving technology and safety features.

The building now has energy-efficient elevators, a chilled beam system for air conditioning and a heating system that use much less energy, new walls and braces for earthquake stabilization, a horizontal fire shutter above the atrium designed to stop the spread of a fire, and a new pedestrian walkway called “Job’s Crossing” that connects the building to the rest of campus for safer pedestrian traffic.

“It’s a complete renovation, and it’s amazing that we took something that had no insulation and get it to a place where it is performing 40 percent better than a code-compliant building,” Larm said. “The swing in energy efficiency is just enormous.”

All told, these energy upgrades will save the building 32 percent in annual energy costs, he added. The Revolving Loan Fund helped to off-set the cost of making these changes to the building.

The Revolving Loan Fund operates by fronting the extra incremental costs often associated with energy efficiency or renewable energy. Often the initial costs of these on-campus projects—such as solar panels and high efficiency water heaters—can be a barrier for the University, even if the project will save money over its lifetime. After the project is complete, the loan is paid back to the fund through savings accrued in reduced energy costs to the university. In addition, after the loan is paid back (typically 8-15 years), the university benefits from those savings for the remaining life of the equipment (usually 25 years).

“Not only does the university save money and reduce carbon emissions through the fund, but the returns on investment are plowed right back into other projects for decades to come,” said Myron Willson, deputy chief sustainability officer. “The fund is also one of only a few student fee-based revolving loan funds in the country. It is unique on campus in that student fees and donations provide annual funding like an endowment, while returns from previous project investments grow the available pool exponentially. It is the fund that literally keeps on giving.”

BRIGHT LIGHTS UNDER A DARK SKY

Originally Posted on February 12, 2018 in @theU By Abeni Czajkowski, communications specialist, Planning Design & Construction

You don’t need to wait for the
yearly walk to report an area
you think needs to be
addressed. To report a lighting
issue, click here.

A report can be made at any
time via your phone. Simply select
the lighting condition,
describe the problem and
identify the location using
the interactive map.

The safety of all students, faculty and staff is a top priority for the University of Utah. For the past 18 years, administrators, safety experts and volunteers have worked together and focused on ensuring a well-lit and safe campus at night. At the same time, recent sustainability and environmental measures have increased focus on reducing light pollution and helping the U to become compliant with the dark sky initiative of minimizing light trespass and skyglow with specially approved light fixtures.

Walk after dark

When identifying areas of campus that are too dark or seem unsafe, it’s best to experience it first-hand. Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) sponsors an annual “Walk After Dark” during which participants walk every sidewalk on campus to identify areas of concern. Team members use their phones to mark exact GPS locations where they find potential safety issues with lighting.

“The walk occurs in the fall after the sun sets, the leaves are full and the moon is hidden — a night of ‘optimal darkness’” said James Stubbs, associate director of OEHS. “We also identify uneven pavement, broken light fixtures, areas of perceived darkness versus actual darkness and landscape elements that interfere with the light or could provide a potential hiding place. We then analyze the data found in order to find solutions to the problems.”

Ensuring proper lighting across campus was a priority of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety, which requested and received $125,000 for that purpose in this year’s budget.

Light pollution mitigation

The first steps in preventing light pollution is understanding what it is. One example of an inefficient light fixture is the “lollipop light pole,” which distributes uncontrolled light. These are being replaced with more efficient fixtures that keep campus areas brightly lit while also reducing light pollution from “sky-glow.”

“Light pollution is wasted energy in the form of artificial light that impairs one’s ability to see the night sky,” said Bill Leach, sustainability projects coordinator with Facilities Management. “It’s not as simple as just turning off the lights in a campus setting. It’s not just about getting rid of lights but it’s controlling light, working to make sure it’s going where we want it to go and not outside of its parameters.”

Light pollution not only affects the night sky but it affects our bodies as well as the surrounding environment and the inhabitants within it. Motivations to become a Dark Sky Compliant campus include health-related concerns, the environment, wildlife and sustainability efforts.

So how do you control light?

The University of Utah is replacing current fixtures with Dark Sky-Friendly LED lighting. LED light beams travel in a more linear path and therefore can be easier to control. These fixtures don’t allow the light to escape above its horizontal plane. The new fixtures help to minimize contributions to sky glow through spectrum intensity, color temperature and shielding.

“There is no black and white answer for what is adequate because light levels in a given area are perceived differently by each individual,” Leach said. “We can help people feel more safe using lighting but we cannot give it a one-size fits all answer. The night sky is there but people don’t often get to see it in an urban setting. We are working hard and will continue doing so to find a balanced solution.”

Resources

The U offers a number of resources that allow campus community members to raise concerns with lighting safety, which can be found here. Campus police also are available to escort you to a residence hall or vehicle at night, which can be arranged by calling 801-585-2677.

  • Report a light out by clicking here
  • Lighting safety information can be found here
  • SafeU website
  • Campus Police: 801-585-2677

For more campus resources on Dark Sky Compliance:

10 YEARS OF SUSTAINABILITY

Originally posted in @theU on Sept. 22, 2017.

By Amy Brunvand, Sustainability Librarian.

The University of Utah Sustainability Office turns 10 years old this year, and it is truly amazing to look around campus and realize how much has changed for the better in the past decade. Nowadays, there are campus vegetable gardens with ripe tomatoes and hives of buzzing bees, solar parking canopies that provide both power and shade, electric vehicles plugged into charging stations, crowds of students arriving on TRAX light-rail trains, tasty vegetarian and vegan options on offer at the cafeteria, water bottle refilling stations in most buildings, and plenty of recycling bins to divert waste from the landfill.

The curriculum has changed, too. Undergraduates can earn a number of sustainability-focused degrees and minors, while graduate students in any field can add an Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability to their credentials.

Over the years, students, staff and faculty have all contributed to a vision of making the University of Utah a better place. In September, the Sustainability Office will celebrate these milestones and achievements with a Sustainability Showcase highlighting current programs and resources, and a special presentation by Dr. Vandana Shiva who advocates for traditional agriculture, and environmental and social justice issues worldwide.

Join us at the Sustainability Showcase on Friday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on the Marriott Library Plaza for food, live music and fun activities. Later this fall, Dr. Vandana Shiva will present a public lecture at Libby Gardner Concert Hall on Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m., as part of UtahPresents 2017-18 season. Tickets are available now.

1991-2006: Early Beginnings of Sustainability

Ten years ago, the transition to campus sustainability had barely begun, although a few major milestones laid the foundation. The first big sustainable change was a side effect of trying to cope with limited parking; in 1991, Commuter Services launched the Ed Pass program to give a UTA transit pass to every student and employee on campus. Not only did this encourage people to leave their cars at home, it helped expand Salt Lake City’s light rail network when enthusiastic transit riders from the U showed up at City Council meetings to press for construction of the Red Line TRAX, which opened in 2001.

In 1996, a biology professor named Fred Montague started an “unofficial” campus vegetable garden to teach students about his ideas for ecological gardening. That unofficial garden became the foundation of today’s Edible Campus Gardens, which teaches volunteers how to grow food, supports organic gardening curriculum and sells produce at the University of Utah Farmers Market. By 2006, the university had also constructed the Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Health Sciences Education Building, the first LEED-certified building which incorporated efficient use of energy and water, waste reduction and consideration of human health in the building’s design, construction, operations and maintenance.

These efforts were significant, but they weren’t yet part of a unified drive to implement sustainability on campus.

2007-2014: The Sustainability Office Forms

Divergent efforts began to coalesce in 2007, with the formation of the Sustainability Office (then called the Sustainability Resource Center), underneath Facilities Management.

Something like the Sustainability Office doesn’t happen without visionaries. The idea was originally proposed by students, but it was City & Metropolitan Planning faculty member Craig B. Forster who led the effort to make the idea work. Forster, who became the first director, was a natural fit with sustainability. He was interested in facilitating interdisciplinary research and bridging the gaps between science and public policy. He also had a talent for bringing people together and was deeply involved with the local community. In the summertime, he was often seen at the Pioneer Park farmers’ market playing cimbalom (a kind of hammered dulcimer) with his Hungarian Táncház band.

With only one full-time staff member and some volunteers, the Sustainability Office got to work organizing recycling at football games, installing the first solar panels on campus, setting up a campus farmers’ market, making sure that sustainability was included in the Campus Master Plan and developing a student fee to support student-led sustainability projects through the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund. On Earth Day 2008, University of Utah President Michael K. Young signed the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment, dedicating the university to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The year ended in tragedy, though, when Forster died in a hiking accident.

Despite the loss of Forster, the university persevered with a vision for making sustainability integral to its operations. In 2009, after a competitive nationwide search, architect and planner Myron Willson was appointed the next director of the office.

2014-2017: Sustainability is Integrated into Academic Affairs

In 2014, the Sustainability Office made another big change to adapt to the growing campus. Originally, the office was on the organizational chart under Facilities Management with the idea that university employees would take care of recycling, xeriscaping, transit passes and such.

But then an interesting thing happened. Students were getting more and more interested in sustainable change. They wanted to try out their ideas, and the campus was the most natural place for them to do so. With the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) now up and running, grants were available for student-led sustainability projects. The university had become a living laboratory for sustainable change, and sustainability-focused courses had popped up in academic departments all over campus. With so much involvement in interdisciplinary research and learning, the Sustainability Office moved into Academic Affairs, and Associate Vice President for Faculty and law professor Amy Wildermuth was named Chief Sustainability Officer in 2014. Wildermuth added Adrienne Cachelin, Environmental & Sustainability Studies faculty to the team as the director of sustainability education to guide burgeoning sustainability education efforts across campus.

Under Wildermuth, the Sustainability Office also joined forces with the Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC), founded in 2010 by biology professor Jim Ehleringer to foster interdisciplinary sustainability research. Nowadays, under Director Brenda Bowen, Geology & Geophysics faculty, the 129 faculty affiliates of the GCSC represent nine colleges. The center supports graduate students through grants and fellowships, offers an interdisciplinary research seminar series, faculty networking opportunities, assistance for large interdisciplinary grants and core courses in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability curriculum.

Sustainability is You: The Next 10 Years

Today, the Sustainability Office team includes fourteen faculty and staff members as well as numerous student interns and volunteers and continues to expands its scope. Though much progress has been made, sustainability is an ongoing effort, and there is still a lot of work to do.

This year, the Sustainability Office celebrates 10 years of dedicated efforts of faculty, staff and students from across campus. The next 10 years of sustainability at the university will be guided by those in our community who get and remain involved. We invite you to be part of this important work. Join us at one of our fall events to learn about ways you can help make the U a better place for all who live, work and play here.