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U.Va. Energy Conservation Measures Merit National Award

July 30, 1999 -- Energy conservation is not just good for the environment. It also is saving the University of Virginia millions of dollars and shining the national spotlight on the University’s engineering education and facilities management programs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently 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.

"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."

Throughout the past decade, U.Va.’s department of 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. These and other measures, both in new construction and daily maintenance of older buildings, have reduced the rate of electricity consumption dramatically.

Along with facilities management officials and employees, engineering students have contributed their talents to the energy-conservation effort.

Engineering 164: Engineering Design, a first-semester, first-year course, combines theory with hands-on experience. Last fall, the students taking P. Paxton Marshall’s section of the course analyzed energy use in selected buildings around Grounds and designed cost-effective, energy-saving upgrades. Working in teams with experienced maintenance personnel, the students examined the buildings’ lighting, insulation, windows, heating-ventilation-air-conditioning (HVAC) plant and HVAC distribution systems.

These comprehensive, time-intensive 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.

The partnership of students and skilled professionals has proved mutually beneficial, 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, working with up-and-coming energy engineers, and that whole buildings were analyzed."

Students generally gave the class project good reviews. Evaluating the course, one student commented: "The EPA Energy Star Building Project ...was unexpected, interesting, thought-provoking, time-consuming, team-building, unique and rewarding all at once."

Over the past decade, 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 pollution 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.

According to the EPA, the energy needed to run commercial and industrial buildings in the United States -- including government and educational facilities -- produces 19 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and costs $110 billion a year. Higher levels of carbon dioxide pouring into the atmosphere from industrialized societies contribute to the greenhouse effect, which is thought to increase average temperatures on the Earth’s surface and potentially to lead to deleterious effects, such as more frequent droughts and melting glaciers, thereby raising the water level of the world’s oceans.

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. At the same time, this approach could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 350 to 500 million metric tons -- equivalent to the emissions that would be produced by 20 million cars over the next 10 years.

For more information or photos of the energy-saving retrofit work now in progress, call Tony Motto, energy program manager, at (804) 982-5893. For more information on Engineering 164, call P. Paxton Marshall, associate professor of electrical engineering , at (804) 924-3164. For more information about the EPA’s Energy Star Building and Green Lights Partnership programs, call Jean Lupinacci, director of the EPA’s Energy Star Building and Green Lights Partnership programs at (202) 564-9137.

Student project reports for Engineering 164: Engineering Design can be viewed at: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~jdc3w/Design.html

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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