Friday, March 16, 2007

Hoos Green?

. Friday, March 16, 2007

Mar. 4, 2007 — A new report from the University of Virginia’s Office of the
Architect provides the first comprehensive look at U.Va.’s numerous
programs in support of environmental sustainability and also provides a road
map for future initiatives designed to secure the University’s position as a
national leader among colleges and universities.

The assessment program considered both operational activities and academic
programs in support of sustainability. According to David J. Neuman, the
University’s architect, the University initiated the study to identify baseline
performance, to recognize accomplishments, to stimulate continuing dialogue
and to develop recommendations for future activities.

In response to the recommendations, U.Va. will move forward with a new
model by adopting and implementing a University-wide program to promote
sustainability measures within and among all departments. Current
departmental and interdepartmental initiatives will be sustained while efforts
in the University’s particular areas of strength in sustainability are enhanced.
Each of the University’s operational units will be required to perform a selfassessment
of current activities, determine best practices and peer
benchmarks, and set measurable aspirational goals.

The release of the report comes on the heels of action by the U.Va. Board of
Visitors in two significant areas. At its February meeting, the board passed a
resolution requiring that all new and renovated buildings at the University
meet LEED certification under the rating system developed by the U.S. Green
Building Council, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design,
construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The LEED
certification is expected to add 1.5 percent to the total construction costs but
should save money through more efficient energy use, reduced maintenance
costs, better storm water management and increased productivity.

In addition, the Board established the Grounds Improvement Fund, designed
to make improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists and reduce automobile
use at the University.

“In truth, the University has made important, measurable strides with regard
to sustainability, and it has done so on its own, because they are the right
thing to do,” said U.Va. President John T. Casteen III. “Our board's decision
in February to adopt LEED certification for new and renovated buildings was
a major step that was not taken lightly. It came after thoughtful analysis of
options, and with full awareness that while LEED represents the current state
of the art in sustainable construction practices, the art will improve. As it
improves, so will our building construction, maintenance, and management
systems. The board’s action represents a clear sign of commitment. We will
monitor progress here and elsewhere carefully and will take advantage of the
research here and elsewhere as we work toward even greater environmental
sustainability in our community.”

Neuman called the assessment “ a significant milestone for the University, not
only because it provides the initial benchmarks from which to plan improvements and to measure our future efforts in sustainability, but also
because it serves as a platform for raising overall institutional consciousness
of our current strengths and weaknesses in creating a ‘greener Grounds.’”
Accomplishments in each of seven “management centers” entailed not only
positive environmental impact but also significant cost reduction or cost
avoidance. In fact, a separate report from the University’s Energy and
Utilities Department indicates that programs in energy conservation and
recycling resulted in almost $6 million in cost avoidance during 2005-2006.

A sampling of accomplishments across the University includes:

 Implementation of an Environmental Management System and
Sustainability Guidelines to help U.Va. manage its environmental
impacts, ensure compliance with all applicable regulations and
encourage sustainability across University departments;

 Introduction of energy-efficient lighting systems in many facilities,
which has reduced energy consumption and, as a direct consequence,
air pollution by more than 7,500 tons of carbon dioxide per year. This
includes installation of 6,000 motion sensors or timers to control
artificial lighting, which has resulted in an estimated savings of almost

 Installation of a Tarkett FieldTurf facility on Carr’s Hill Field, which
results in $30,000 in annual operational savings while allowing for
more frequent and sustained use as well as serving as a storm water
retention device;

 Reforestation through a tree replacement and integrated pest
management program to minimize pesticide and herbicide usage, and
the use of low maintenance plants throughout Grounds;

 Use of B20 (20 percent biodiesel blend) fuel in the entire University
Transit System bus fleet, plus collaboration between UTS and the
Charlottesville Transportation Service on a fare-free pilot program with
the potential to reduce automobile usage;

 Achievement of recycling rates of more than 40 percent, which
significantly exceed the state-mandated 25 percent level. This resulted
in a calculated savings of $114,000 by recycling 5,436 tons of materials
instead of disposing of them in a landfill;

 Development of water conservation efforts that have led to a decline in
water consumption over the last six years despite the University’s

 Participation in a pilot program hosted by ARAMARK through SYSCO
(both food service providers) to purchase locally grown produce when
seasonably available.

“What was especially notable about the assessment, in my view, was
recognizing that members of the U.Va. community — faculty, staff and
students — are doing remarkable things in support of sustainability initiatives
at the University,” said Cheryl Gomez, energy and utilities director for
Facilities Management. “What was also clear is that we have not done a good
job of documenting and celebrating these many accomplishments. Going
forward, I think we need to focus on how we can build on these many
successes without losing sight of how much we have already done.”

John Quale, an assistant professor of architecture who participated in the
assessment process, said he was struck by the degree to which the process led
to a truly honest evaluation of where the University stands on the issue of

“I think many around the table felt there have been a lot of terrific efforts
focused on environmental issues in the past, but they had remained isolated,”
Quale said. “This report was an attempt to bring everyone together and openly
discuss what we've done well, and frankly, what we haven't done very well.
“In addition, I think the report's authors were working to get beyond generic
suggestions or goals. They were interested in finding solutions that made
sense for U.Va., and could be effectively implemented within the university's
management structure. Tying in the results to the annual reporting structure is
just one example of this."

Neuman noted that one measure of the University’s commitment is the
establishment of two new positions in his office to focus the planning and
coordination of sustainability efforts.

More than 200 University members, including staff, faculty and students
across more than 40 departments participated in the Sustainability Assessment
during the summer and fall of 2006. Through four introductory workshops,
nine Web-based survey modules, numerous interviews and additional
research, the University gathered data in the areas of governance and culture
and academics and learning as well as the following management centers:
land use, built environment, transportation, dining services, energy, water,
and waste and recycling.

The assessment study also determined that academic departments and
institutes throughout the University are infused with a sustainability ethos,
including the School of Law, School of Architecture, The College of Arts &
Sciences, McIntire School of Commerce, the Batten Institute at the Darden
School of Business and the Institute for Environmental Negotiation.

In addition, the report compared current practices at U.Va. with efforts being
undertaken by other colleges and universities. As the report noted: “With
more than 4,200 colleges and universities in the U.S. generating $200 billion
in revenues, employing more than 3 million people, enrolling 17 million
students, spending $20 billion annually on operations and spending $14
billion annually in construction, colleges and universities are uniquely
positioned to drive change in their immediate environs while educating future
generations on the importance of this work.”

Neuman said that U.Va.’s current leadership in several key areas and its
commitment to sustainability afford the University an opportunity for national
leadership among colleges and universities.