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SIUE AND SUSTAINABILITY
All Faculty Meeting
April 22, 2009
SIUE has been engaged in activities and behaviors that enhance sustainability for many years—long before the term came into widespread use. In many cases the activities or initiatives were undertaken for reliability or cost savings, but had “sustainable” consequences. The items below are a fairly comprehensive, but not all inclusive (my memory fails from time to time) list of items that are in progress or have been done.
Sustainability Advisory Group. The SAG was formed in 2007 to focus University sustainability efforts and includes faculty, staff, and students. It meets monthly to assess progress on existing initiatives and vet ideas for future efforts. The SAG is the overarching body for the Earth Week activities, including co-hosting this meeting with the Faculty Senate. However, most of the individual events are sponsored by other bodies, such as the Student Organization for Sustainability and The Gardens at SIUE.
Illinois Sustainable University Compact. The Chancellor signed the compact on Earth Day last year committing the University to eight specific goals. The SAG periodically reviews progress. Many of the objectives are reflected in items below. I have attached a copy of our signed Compact.
Budget. Working with the UPBC, the Chancellor allocated a budget of $50K to support sustainability initiatives. Among the initiatives are a rain garden demonstration project in the School of Engineering to control and clean parking lot run off water, increased recycling efforts, an allocation for this week’s activities, and support for a faculty research project. Additionally, the VCA has allocated funds to underwrite an Undergraduate Research Academy project related to sustainability, a Graduate Assistantship to conduct a sustainability audit, send students and staff to the Green Build Conference and the American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education Meeting and other activities.
Energy Performance Contract (EPC). Perhaps the most significant sustainability initiative was done to save money. About 13 years ago, the State offered an opportunity for agencies to participate in an EPC pilot program. SIUE was one of only two universities to participate and had by far the largest program. Partnering with Johnson Controls, we borrowed funds to upgrade the lighting and many of the energy control systems with our partner (Johnson Controls) guaranteeing that the savings would pay for the project. Over the years, the project paid for itself and generated additional savings that were invested into buildings such as the Museum Storage Building and the 200 University Park building that now houses Pharmacy. Over the life of the loan, the University saved more than $2M over the loan cost. The cost avoidance continues about $1M per year in reduced electric bills, and the reduced consumption reduces our carbon footprint.
Building Boilers. The University was faced with a progressive failure of the high-pressure hot water system that provided heat and hot water to the core buildings. Those of you who have been here a while can recall the steam coming up through the ground at random locations around the campus. To achieve reliability and save money, we decided to abandon rather than replace the five miles of underground hot water pipe and put boilers in each of the buildings. This saved millions of dollars in construction costs, and we put one more boiler than the required number in each building for reliability. As an intended side benefit our natural gas consumption declined by almost 20%. Most of the savings comes in the summer when only one relatively small boiler per building runs to provide hot water to restrooms instead of running a massive plant and heating 20,000 ft of underground pipe. This reduction also cuts our carbon footprint.
Chiller Project. The University replaced its aged, low efficiency, absorber chillers and CFC based chillers with high efficiency non CFC chillers. The new chillers require 80% less energy input than the absorbers they replaced. At the same time, we added a 3M gallon chilled water tank that is chilled at night when electrical demand is low. The water is used for cooling during the day. This saves cost by creating a relatively flat demand profile for electricity. The University’s price is based on peak use. When we eliminate peaks, we save money, and in a small way reduce the need for excess capacity in the generating industry.
Green Power. The University purchases 10% of its electricity from green sources—a wind farm in Oklahoma.
Biofuels. The University uses the maximum recommended blend of biodiesel fuel in its vehicles. This is 20% in summer and 5% in the winter. We also purchase ethanol blend gasoline in bulk and most vehicles are flex fuel capable of burning E85. The campus filling station has a special pump and tank designed and used for E85.
Design Guidelines. The University has developed design guidelines for new construction and major renovations. Among other items, they specify that all new buildings must be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifiable, although not necessarily certified. All projects must control runoff water and materials are specified for long life and low maintenance. For example, the new floor tile being used is a rubber product that cleans with water only and does not need waxing. In some areas of the Student Success Center, there will be no tile at all. The concrete will be polished to a low maintenance and extremely durable surface. All carpet is recyclable and the Success Center carpet is cradle to cradle. (When worn out, the manufacturer will take it back and recycle it into new carpet product.) The new Science building is being designed to LEED Silver. Whenever possible, we use metal roofs, which have a very long life. In addition, this summer we will be replacing seven roofs on campus. All will use a white, rather than black, covering which is more energy efficient in this climate. The Rendleman balcony will have a green roof using a modular block system being developed by industry and tested by our Biological Sciences and Civil Engineering Departments. The new Student Success Center will also have a green roof using that system. Another phase of the University’s 21st Century Buildings Plan will replace windows with energy efficient units.
The Gardens at SIUE. The Gardens at SIUE is a public botanical garden on the main campus. This 35-acre venue supports the educational and research mission of the University, engages the public in campus life, and provides a haven for relaxation and enjoyment. Serving as a hands-on, living laboratory, the emphasis is on enlightening experiences for students, faculty, staff, and community members.
Micro Chemistry. For many years now, the Chemistry Department has been using a “micro chemistry” approach in its organic chemistry teaching. With this concept very small amounts of chemicals are used to teach chemical reactions. This reduces the amount of chemicals going into the waste stream and cost to the department. We also participate in a chemical exchange program, where excess chemicals are offered to local schools.
Invasive Species Control. The University provides one of the few natural areas in the region for enjoyment and research. Nonnative invasive plant species are threatening this unique and valuable resource. The University has made a long-term commitment to controlling the invasives and restoring native species. Piecemeal control efforts have been underway for several years, but a cohesive plan was lacking. Last summer and for this academic year, VCA has funded a student intern and supported a Biological Sciences faculty member to conduct and document a campus wide inventory of invasive plant species, recommend control methods based on best practice and field research, develop a control plan, and begin more organized control efforts. In addition to developing the plan, the student’s senior assignment reflects this effort, and she and the faculty member will be presenting the results of their work at regional and national meetings. If the budget goes as planned, even more intensive control efforts will begin next fiscal year. This is expected to be a long-term investment.
Land Use Plan. The University Land Use Plan was approved by the UPBC and the Board of Trustees several years ago. It identifies sections of the campus to be maintained in various natural states for teaching, research, and enjoyment. The Academic Land Use Committee approves locations on campus for faculty/staff/student research activities.
Water Runoff. A major problem in built up areas is the reduction in permeable land surface, which increases the amount of storm water, which runs off rapidly, causing erosion and in many cases flooding. For at least the last dozen years, all University construction projects have included on site detention of storm water to keep run off to pre construction levels. Additional detention areas have been constructed to slow down water coming from off campus area but flowing through the University. The SAG has funded a rain garden demonstration project to be constructed in the detention area for parking lot E. The rain garden should be able to clean the water as well as slow its flow. An engineering graduate student is designing the project under the supervision of a faculty member. Other runoff control measures include dredging several ponds to assure their health and ability to continue to perform as detention structures, limiting the use of turf chemicals, and placing green roofs on some of our buildings.
Environmentally Friendly Lighting. Mercury pollution from fluorescent bulbs is an environmental concern. For several years, the University has been using low mercury bulbs. Additionally, all spent bulbs are recycled through a company that grinds them up and extracts the component materials, including the mercury, for reuse. We are also closely monitoring the development of LED lighting. LED tubes use about one-third the electricity of high efficiency fluorescents, have a much longer life, and do not contain the hazardous materials. The product is in its infancy and not ready for prime time. However, the industry is maturing and the LED tubes have the potential to be the next big electricity saver. We are also evaluating LEDs for the parking lot and street applications. Additionally, we are currently working on our third grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation to improve the efficiency of our campus lighting. You may have noticed the upgraded lighting in the stairwells of most campus buildings where we not only cut electrical use by 40% but significantly increased the lighting levels.
Green Cleaning Supplies. We are currently at about 60% in green cleaning product use. Our favorite is a multi cleaner product which allows us to use it many ways based on dilution rates. This product alone has helped us to streamline ordering. Another useful product is foam soap, which is more efficient than lotions. Additionally, our plastic trash liners and paper towels contain a percentage of post consumer products. Our supplier works with us, testing products that meet standards for being nontoxic, eco safe, and environmentally friendly. Our vendor has supplied green training, helped us to develop green order forms, and is current with state legislative procedures involving green cleaning. Our supervisory staff trains both online and hands on, keeping current of the latest trends in cleaning green.
Recycling. Recycling has been a University priority for many years, but the program has had mixed results depending on market conditions. At one time, there was a market for most recyclable materials and the University received some income. The concept of income disappeared several years ago, but we were able to get our paper recycled at no cost by a local company that converted it into cellulose insulation. With the current economic conditions, that company shut down and we went a few months with no paper recycling contract. We now have a contract in place, but must pay a premium over basic trash service to have the paper recycled. The new University contract takes all recyclables under the same rules as Madison County. Under this program, all recyclables enter a single stream and are sorted at the Allied Waste facility. Currently, we are using separate dumpsters at the buildings as the entry point into the single stream. We are asking community members to continue to segregate recyclables inside the buildings because the contract will be up for bid in June, and it may require that we again segregate items. If not, we will initiate single stream recycling within the buildings at that time. Scrap metal is recycled through facilities management and a State contract, but all income goes to the State. About two years ago, we changed the way we handle trash and recycling in offices. The practice used to be for Facilities Management to empty the trash and for each employee to take their own recyclables to the containers in the hall. The change was for FM to empty trash and recycling on alternating weeks. The quantity of paper recycled increased by 40% in two months.
Landscaping and Reforestation. Over the past six years, Facilities Management has planted about 3000 trees and plants with an emphasis on rejuvenating the campus landscaping and expanding forested areas with native species. Working with the Biological Sciences Department and The Gardens, the program has been successful in enhancing the campus and establishing low maintenance landscaping.
Cougar Lake. The fish in Cougar Lake were in bad shape consisting of stunted and unhealthy populations of bluegill and other species. With the assistance of the Biological Sciences Department and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the species balance was changed. Today, the lake hosts thriving populations of bass, bluegill, and several other species. We have received several excellent and complimentary reports from the IDNR, and now even have a club competitive bass fishing team on campus.
Electronic Publications. Wherever possible, the University has eliminated paper copies of documents and publications relying instead on web based access. Some examples include the annual security report, policies and procedures, internal news, grades, and student bills. We have also scanned tens of thousands of pages of records reducing the number of filing cabinets and freeing up space for other functions. Some examples of freed space include the Disability Support Services and the Faculty Ombuds Office. Another initiative was to eliminate the use of pressure sensitive forms (some of which cost as much as $.75 each) in favor of making photocopies for less than $.03 each.
Recycled Furniture. Although not the biggest program around, there are a number of areas on campus where we have recycled furniture (in addition to the regular use of the Surplus Property Department). In many cases, the furniture that was bought when the University opened was of very high quality and made from woods that we would not be able to afford today. Thus refinishing is an attractive and cost effective option. One of the most visible areas is in the Lovejoy Library where the high quality, but worn walnut tables and chairs have been sent to Illinois Prison Industries to be repaired and refinished. The inmates do a beautiful job at a fraction of the cost of new furniture. Also, our own carpenter shop has refinished a number of items for continued use. Any University Unit can obtain useable furniture/equipment from Surplus Property for free. Periodically, we transport unclaimed items to the State Surplus Property facility, where it can be claimed by any State agency or is sold.
Sustainability Coordinator. With the approval of the SAG and the Chancellor, the University is establishing a graduate assistantship to serve as sustainability coordinator. In tough budget times, this represents a commitment to establishing a viable program to achieve the goals outlined in the SAG Charter and the Illinois Sustainability University Compact. A more long-term arrangement is dependent on funding and progress made.
Faculty Research. I hesitate to mention this area because I cannot do justice to the volume and quality of research relating to sustainability being done by our faculty and students. Just a few examples include green roofs, invasive species, fish populations, alternative refrigeration methods, solar cells, endangered plant and animal species, communications strategies, and the list goes on. One of the objectives of the sustainability audit and the SAG is to become aware and make others aware of these efforts.
Student Affairs. In 2008, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs undertook a comprehensive study of sustainability efforts within his area. A report and plan was submitted in May of that year and is available for review. One of the highlights is Students Improving Society (SIS). This living/learning program came online for fall 2008. This is a community for students who desire a more cohesive community and who want to make a difference by experimenting with “green lifestyles” and group initiatives to promote sustainability at SIUE. Located in Woodland Hall, SIS is open to first-year students in any major. SIS is first and foremost about education. It is an example of learning by doing. Residents learn valuable lessons in sustainability through everyday activities and shared experiences. Students also enroll in one of two classes: BIOL 111: University Campuses-Sustainable Leaders for the 21st Century or ANTH 170: Conservation and Sustainability-Local and Global Perspectives.
Vice Chancellor for Administration