Sept. 17-23, 1999
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U.Va. garners EPA's top national award
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U.Va. energy conservation and education efforts garner EPA's top national award

Felix Crawford
Stephanie Gross
HVAC leadman Felix Crawford (left) explains one of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory building's maintenance systems to U.Va. Engineering students.

By Charlotte Crystal

Energy conservation is not just good for the environment. It also is saving the University millions and shining the national spotlight on U.Va.'s engineering education and Facilities Management programs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded U.Va. its 1999 Green Lights Education Partner of the Year Award for the University's success in global climate protection through the voluntary installation of energy-efficient technologies in its buildings.

U.Va. students, as well as its skilled workforce, had a hand in this success, said Cheryl Gomez, U.Va.'s director of utilities. "We're in the business of education, and for students, in-the-field, hands-on experience can't be beat," Gomez said. "The EPA liked our work with students up-and-coming energy engineers, and that whole buildings were analyzed."

Students in P. Paxton Marshall's "Engineering Design" class, a first-semester, first-year course, combine theory with hands-on experience. Last fall, they analyzed energy use in selected buildings around Grounds and designed cost-effective, energy-saving upgrades. Working in teams with experienced U.Va. maintenance personnel, the students examined the buildings' lighting, insulation, windows, heating-ventilation-air-conditioning (HVAC) plant and HVAC distribution systems.

These projects gave students experience in grappling with problems faced by working engineers, while their reports served as blueprints -- now under review by professionals -- for the Facilities Management Department as it plans University-wide energy audits and systems upgrades, Marshall said. (Student project reports can be viewed at:

Throughout the past decade, Facilities Management has worked to streamline, upgrade and replace aging ventilation, heating and cooling technologies, cutting the University's total energy bill by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, according to Tony Motto, U.Va's energy program manager. In 1998 alone, replacing window air conditioners and inefficient chiller units with connections to central chiller plants saved more than $500,000. Improving the insulation of distribution pipes and replacing old, inefficient boilers with connections to central heating plants saved another $400,000.

U.Va. has been in the forefront of a national effort to conserve energy. The payoff for U.Va. and the environment is clear: 11.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide were not dumped into the air, $4.2 million was not spent on generating electricity, and the institution's efforts have been recognized at the nation's highest levels.

"The University of Virginia serves as a remarkable example of environmental leadership," said Jean Lupinacci, director of the EPA's Energy Star Building and Green Lights Partnership programs. "By reducing its operating costs, the University has also shown that implementing energy-efficient practices is a smart management strategy."

If similar energy saving measures are put into place nationwide between now and 2010, the Energy Star Buildings approach could shrink cumulative energy bills by $130 billion, according to the EPA.


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