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UCI honored for commitment to sustainable operations

Celebrating Sustainability series recognizes green programs among universities

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: April 09, 2012 02:55 PM

The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment has recognized UC Irvine among the top 15 colleges and universities in the nation for its commitment to promoting environmental sustainability.

The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is an accord signed by nearly 700 higher education institutions, making a commitment to promote sustainable practices through education and operations. The Celebrating Sustainability series is a chain of recognitions offered to the colleges and universities –– signatories of the ACUPCC –– that have demonstrated its commitment through its own actions and educational programs. The series honors a new institution every day this month, leading up to Earth Day on April 22.

Wendell Brase, UCI’s vice chancellor for Administrative and Business Services, said the campus’s achievements do more than just save operating costs in the long run.

"We are heartened by the savings the University is realizing from deep energy-efficiency projects,” said Brase, who is also the chair of the University of California’s Climate Solutions Steering Group. “The energy saved from these projects, which typically reduce energy consumed and carbon emitted by half or more, could be considered the most feasible form of sustainable energy –– longer-lasting, larger scale, and more affordable than most renewable technologies currently available."

UC Irvine has a demonstrated history of taking on, meeting and beating sustainability goals set by independent organizations. Much of the campus’s success is attributable to its own sustainability practices and operations, many of which were adopted years ago, independent of any outside influence. Beginning in 1992, the school set the goal of exceeding California’s Title 24 requirements by 30 percent for all new construction projects going forward. (Title 24 sets the state’s energy efficiency guidelines for residential and non-residential construction).

When facilities/energy engineers discovered that newly constructed campus labs’ operations could be made much more efficient without sacrificing occupant safety, the campus instituted the Smart Labs program. The initiative, adopted in 2008, will be deployed in almost all new and retrofitted campus lab spaces, achieving a 50 percent reduction in the labs’ energy consumption.

Last year, UCI signed on to meet President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge, a commitment by public and private entities to increase efficiency and set an energy-savings goal of 20 percent by 2020. However, the campus changed its goals for its participation slightly. Because of sustainability practices already in place on campus, UCI is likely to meet the 20 percent energy savings goal by this year, using a baseline of 2010. It is projected to reduce on-campus electricity use by 40 percent by 2020, doubling the Challenge goals. So as a part of its participation in the Better Buildings Challenge, the campus set the additional goal of reducing electricity use on the main campus by a further 9 percent in 2012.

“Doubling the energy reduction goals set forth by the Obama administration's Better Buildings Challenge is an enormous achievement, and UCI seems on pace to do just that," said Dr. Anthony Cortese, president of Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the ACUPCC. "More broadly, putting sustainability on display in the university's buildings and on its campus is a crucial step towards integrating sustainable living with the student experience so that UCI graduates are equipped to meet the demands of the new-energy economy."

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