Written by: Lee Sheerer
Athens Banner-Herald Newspaper
As much as the University of Georgia has expanded in the past 15 years, the institution needs still more, says UGA Campus Architect Danny Sniff.
And not just more space is needed, but expensive improvements to aging mid-century buildings like the high-rise dormitories on Baxter Street and the science complex on the UGA South Campus.
But UGA also needs new buildings simply to compete, as well, Sniff said.
High on UGA’s wish list is a science learning center, conceived as a science-engineering equivalent of the Miller Learning Center, and study and library building with lab space.
However, Sniff said money for such expensive projects might be hard to come by in the future.
The prospects for help from the state are uncertain. After a slate of multimillion-dollar projects gets underway this year, there are no big projects in the planning pipeline, according to Sniff.
And the university needs to spend some time and money studying how to use the space it has more efficiently, he said.
According to internal studies, UGA already uses some of its space efficiently.
“We’re in the top quadrant in utilization of classroom space. We’re utilizing our research labs very efficiently,” he said. “The areas I think we need to study are offices, administrative space and community space.”
The university can also get a lot more water- and energy-efficient, said David Spradley, the university’s assistant director of energy services.
A planned new boiler to replace a coal-fired boiler will help, he said.
So would renovations on UGA’s older science buildings.
“Science buildings in general are our biggest energy buildings,” he said.
Air systems have to move air faster in science buildings, which contain labs that use chemicals.
But other universities have seen big energy savings when they modernize old science building air conditioning and heating systems.
“We need to live smaller,” Sniff said. “We need to figure out how to make our existing buildings more energy efficient. We know how to do it, really. We just need the money.”
And much of the campus still isn’t close to being really walkable, said Kevin Kirsche, the UGA sustainability coordinator.
“I’d argue we still have a ways to go in creating a campus that evokes a sense of say North Campus, that is truly pedestrian-centered,” he said.
UGA’s current strategic plan outlines some of the directions UGA construction will take, Kirsche said. The plan calls for reducing water use 40 percent, energy consumption 25 percent per square foot and carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Personal vehicles on campus should decrease by 20 percent, according to the plan, and campus dining operations should increase their use of locally grown food to 35 percent.
“I think we’ll see more renewable energy, and in particular more on-site generation of energy,” said Kirsche said, noting the possible use of photovoltaic cells or solar hot water heating, maybe geothermal heating and cooling systems.
Kirsche also expects to see the campus become more bicycle accessible.
“In some ways, we’ll just be doing more of the same, becoming increasingly conscious of efficient use of water resources, developing the campus in ways that require less energy, identifying feasible ways of converting from a fossil fuel energy system to one that incorporates more renewable energy systems,” he said.
Students have pushed university officials to make the campus more sustainable, and that pressure will continue, Sniff predicted.
“This generation (of students) is propelling the whole sustainability discussion because they will inherit the bad decisions we make and want us to make better decisions,” he said.