Matthew Becton and Nicholas Winter started experimenting last month with a heating and cooling system that could save energy costs in all buildings around the University of Georgia’s campus.
Becton, a second-year PhD engineering student from Savannah, and Winter, a first-year masters engineering student from McDonough, received a grant from the Office of Sustainability to test the model predictive control HVAC system which would predict and accommodate for changing temperatures in a building.
“We wouldn’t have asked for this grant or started researching it if there wasn’t such a big focus on sustainability at UGA,” Becton said. “With this, we can help the university, and the university looks very favorably on green projects and sustainability.”
UGA isn’t leaving sustainability projects all up to students, though.
The Office of University Architects for Facilities Planning, with the help of the Facilities Management Division, has been continuously integrating sustainability requirements into their Design and Construction Requirements and Standards.
According to the director of sustainability Kevin Kirsche, the Office of Sustainability, which is a part of the FMD, helped write and update the section of the standards that deals with facility performance requirements.
“That’s one of the ways we have an impact is participating in continuously updating the standards for design and construction,” Kirsche said. “Those standards are used internally when facilities management is renovating a space or office on campus, but it’s also specifically used by higher design consultants for major capital improvements.”
These regulations were written with the UGA 2020 Strategic Plan in mind, which outlines the goals of the university to reduce waste and to increase efficiency.
These sustainability standards are being integrated into the Terry Business Learning Community currently being built across from the Bolton Dining Commons.
“They’re looking at incorporating green roofs on that building, and there is a green roof on Correll Hall right now,” Kirsche said.
Kirsche said that these plans are subject to change based on the budget, but the buildings will still meet the standards set up by the Office of University Architects.
Jason Perry, the program coordinator and certified energy manager at the Office of Sustainability, said that UGA is trying to reach 20 percent better energy efficiency than required by state regulations.
Perry is one of the many people who overlook design plans for buildings on campus, and he focuses mainly on energy efficiency.
Depending on when the design and construction processes start for buildings, they may be working with old standards. Perry said that when he overlooks the plans, he makes note to recommend accommodating for the new standards if the project budget allows.
“From 2007, UGA has added 15 percent to our building footprint, but our energy consumption has actually gone down slightly,” Perry said. “We keep adding new buildings but the energy use stays the same, which means the average energy consumption stays the same.”
Perry said that the most recent phases of the Terry Business Learning Community are the first buildings on campus to transition completely from fluorescent lighting to the more energy-efficient LED lighting.
Perry said there’s currently another project going on in the Journalism Building to replace the fluorescent lighting to LED lighting, which will have an 18-month payback period.
“At that point, we’re basically printing money in the form of energy savings,” Perry said.
These sustainable improvements can be made as long as the cost of the projects are not changed, Perry said.
Since the project budgets are usually pretty firm and decided sometimes years in advance, some higher-costing sustainability features have the potential to be cut, despite long-term savings, Perry said.
Depending on the payback period of the sustainable feature, Kirsche said the university may seek additional funding to save more money over time.
“I think we can argue that these types of practices are economically sustainable as well,” Kirsche said.
The Office of University Architects standards also deal with waste management during the construction process.
“It’s a fairly aggressive plan, looking at all the various construction debris when you build a building, from drywall to carpet to wood,” Kirsche said. “It requires a specific plan delineating all those waste streams and what the contractor will do with it to the extent that that’s possible and reasonably practical.”
Kirsche said that Terry management and information systems students will be able to measure utility savings in the Business Learning Community while science students are taking a more ecological approach on sustainability in the Science Learning Center.
With sustainable landscaping and indoor energy savings like lights that dim with a lot of daylight, the SLC is the newest finished capital improvement to campus that highlights sustainability efforts in construction.
“The building, in a small way, is functioning as a living laboratory where those sustainable design features are not just for passive learning but active learning for students studying those systems,” Kirsche said.
Callie Oldfield, a first-year graduate student from Nashville, TN, received a grant to research the effectiveness of rain gardens at the SLC.
“There are very thoughtful, sustainable stormwater designs around [the SLC] that most people don’t know about,” Oldfield said.
The three rain gardens and a terrace around the SLC are used to increase water infiltration into the soil, and Oldfield will measure their effectiveness by comparing them to landscapes without rain gardens.
“This [SLC] is a huge impermeable surface that was just put into the landscape,” Oldfield said. “The rooftop is enormous, so you can imagine the amount of water running off into the surface. They have to manage that stormwater impact.”
Alfred Vick, professor of environmental ethics, said that the Jackson St Building, renovated in 2012 and an example for sustainable building on campus, has porous concrete, native plants and a 28,000 gallon cistern.
The cistern captures stormwater from the roof and recycles the water to flush the toilets in the building.
Vick said the renovation of the Jackson Street Building is used as a case study for other potential renovations in similar older buildings around campus, like chemistry or physics.
The Jackson St Building also produces two percent of the building’s total energy load through solar panels on the south side of the building’s roof.
Vick said there have been some feasibility studies with putting solar panels on top of parking desks but nothing is concrete.
“Energy conservation yields water conservation, in a lot of cases,” Perry said.
Perry said that heating and cooling systems, which use a lot of energy, have become more efficient in new buildings in general.
“The basics of a green building should come at no additional costs,” Vick said. “You can do that at the same price as any conventional building, maybe even cheaper. You get some additional costs when you start looking at more advanced features.”
Vick said the decision to add some of those features comes from the length of the payback period.
Perry said the newer HVAC systems use demand control ventilation to change the airflow in a room depending on its occupancy, which saves energy.
“In the old days, there was no way to control that,” Perry said. “You would design a classroom to be maximum exhaust all the time so when it was full of people it would be okay.”
Perry said that people should be able to tell that the HVAC system is working more efficiently in the SLC because there is no building noise.
Between more efficient technology and economic benefits, Kirsche said that most everyone involved in the design and construction projects on campus are using sustainable measures.
“All of our buildings generally are going to incorporate sustainable design because that’s how we design and build buildings on campus,” Kirsche said. “So whether it’s a science building or a business learning community or a dining hall, it’s going to be a high-performance building incorporating sustainable site design.”
Written by: Erin Schilling