U. Central Florida works to become climate neutral

(U-WIRE) OVIEDO, Fla. – When University of Central Florida President John Hitt signed the College and University Presidents Climate Commitment one year ago, he ensured that the campus eventually would become climate neutral. Since then, UCF has adhered to the pledge through education, planning, and action, despite budget cuts. One component of the commitment called for UCF to integrate environmental sustainability into its curriculum. The UCF General Education Program’s new unifying theme is “Our Planet, Our Education, Our Future.” The goal is to incorporate issues of energy conservation and global climate change in a variety of subjects through service-learning courses and other classes. Alaina Bernard, assistant director of the UCF Arboretum, developed a course called service-learning for sustainability for fall 2008. Students will spend one month in class discussing social justice, economic development, and environmental protection and develop proposals for projects. Then they will be given mentors and spend nine to 10 hours per week working in the field. Bernard said she developed the course to “bridge this gap between academics and operations.” The UCF Physical Plant has been implementing new methods to save energy and meet the pledge’s guidelines. The signing of the commitment set in place a policy that all new campus buildings be constructed according to the “silver standard” set by U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). UCF provides its architects with the LEED checklist, which allots points for each aspect of environmental construction, said Peter Newman, the director of Facilities Planning. A building must score 33 out of a possible 69 points to reach silver status. The checklist is divided into six categories. One category, called sustainable sites, awards points for promoting sustainability during the construction process by using alternative transportation, protecting habitats and lessening light pollution. The indoor environmental quality category encourages the use of low-emitting paints, sealants and other materials, and daylight and ventilation to lower energy use. The other categories include water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and innovation and design process. “It’s almost like a report card score sheet,” Newman said. UCF buildings also get points because of campus characteristics already in place. The central chiller plant, which lowers energy costs by using chilled water for cooling needs, and the storm water master plan, which works to conserve and protect surface and groundwater, will earn additional LEED credit, Newman said. After silver, there is the gold standard at 39 points and then platinum at 52 points. Newman said the silver standard is considered the minimum. “When they forecast the points, we try to exceed the silver, because we want to have enough points to not miss silver when the LEED group looks at it,” he said. David Norvell, the assistant director for Energy and Sustainability, said he hopes one or two projects near completion will be certified gold. The only project in progress that won’t attain the silver standard is the Biomedical Science Building because it was started before the policy was put in place. However, it will be LEED certified in the 26- to 32-point range, Norvell said. Securing the certification will make the UCF College of Medicine the only LEED-compliant medical school in the world. Norvell is also working to reduce the energy consumption of UCF’s older buildings. Energy and Sustainability management set aside $1 million for fan-speed reductions, lighting retrofits, PC power management and commissioning, which covers other energy-saving methods. Energy and Sustainability has also undertaken a variety of other projects that are in accordance with the climate commitment. The first greenhouse gas emissions report for UCF was filed last year, per the agreement, and a second report will be released in two to three months. Posters emphasizing the green aspects of mass transit have been placed throughout campus to encourage the use of the shuttle system. New vehicles and equipment are purchased as hybrid, E85 ethanol-compatible or diesel, which can use biodiesel fuel. An on-campus biodiesel production plant will be completed in a couple of months, Norvell said. It will produce 5,000 gallons per year, which is enough to cover the school’s demands. Also by suggestion of the commitment, UCF is participating in Recyclemania, a nation-wide recycling competition between schools. Brian Wormwood, assistant director of Housekeeping and Special Services for the Physical Plant, said he hopes it elevates a disappointing recycling rate on campus. “The university had a 5 percent recycling rate in ’05 or ’06,” he said. “The state mandates that we have a 30 percent recycling rate. If we’re the sixth and now the fifth-largest school in the nation, we should be way up there in the forefront of the whole thing.” Last year, UCF’s rate went up to 8.05 percent, and the Recyclemania’s first week weigh-in was at 9 percent.

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