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UC Irvine joins Better Buildings Challenge

The campus seeks to exceed the national building energy efficiency initiative's savings goal

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: December 05, 2011 10:05 AM

In response to President Barack Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge, to achieve a 20 percent improvement in commercial and industrial buildings' energy efficiency by 2020, UC Irvine has stepped up its commitment to reduce electricity use on the main campus by a further 9 percent in 2012. Due to sustainability practices already in place at the campus, the school is likely to double the challenge’s goals.

"UCI's decision to become an inaugural partner in the Better Buildings Challenge demonstrates the importance our campus places on energy efficiency, and this is one of the many green programs that display our commitment to environmental quality," said Chancellor Michael Drake.

The Better Buildings Challenge, announced by the White House earlier this year, also aims to accelerate private-sector investment in energy efficiency.

The campus was among the first to join the initiative when it was expanded to include public-sector entities; UCI will exceed the president’s goal by 100 percent and is already on track to decrease electricity use by 20 percent from 2010 to 2012, with an anticipated savings of 40 percent by 2020. The initiative is targeting 7 million gross square feet in the campus’ academic core, including 180 office, lab and instructional buildings, as well as recreational and patient-care facilities.

UCI has had a long history of exceeding electricity conservation targets. The campus took up the goal of exceeding the state’s Title 24 energy efficiency standards by 30 percent for new construction in 1992. Recently, strategies for energy savings have in part been made possible through UCI’s pioneering Smart Labs program, which allowed for laboratory energy saving of more than 50 percent. (Story continued below.)

The campus’ Smart Labs program, which debuted in 2008, came to pass when facilities/energy engineers discovered that newly constructed laboratories could be made vastly more efficient without sacrificing any aspects of occupant safety. The Smart Labs program will ultimately be deployed in almost all campus labs.

"Improving laboratory energy efficiency is critical in reducing the carbon footprint of research universities because energy-intensive laboratories typically constitute two-thirds of the energy consumption at these institutions," said Wendell Brase, UCI's vice chancellor for administrative & business services and chair of the University of California's Climate Solutions Steering Group.

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