Advancing sustainability at UCLA
An $8.5-million shortfall in state funds to cover UCLA's energy costs is compelling Facilities Management to scour the campus looking for ways big and small to squeeze more energy out of every dollar spent on power.
BY PHIL HAMPTON
Originally published in UCLA Today
The search goes on everywhere. Workers have changed more than 600,000 fluorescent light bulbs all over campus to more efficient ones that use less energy but produce the same amount of light. The result? A savings of more than $1 million annually.
From more efficient traffic signal lights and ventilation systems to more advanced chilled water systems that reduce air conditioning costs, the campus has been looking everywhere to bring down energy expenses, said David Johnson, UCLA's director of energy services and utilities in Facilities Management.
When a campus building undergoes extensive retrofitting to make it like new, in go occupancy sensors that automatically turn off lights and variable-speed motors and fans that fine-tune energy use of ventilation systems.
Workers are also installing digital energy control systems in buildings that can report energy use and trends back to a central control. "The name of the game in reducing energy consumption is to monitor what's being used and then control the flow of energy to meet the demand, " Johnson said.
Often, the work to cut energy use goes on unnoticed. Four years ago, the campus constructed a huge underground thermal energy storage tank that holds 5 million gallons of water. When energy costs drop in the middle of the night, water in the tank is sent to UCLA's main chiller plant to be cooled down to 42 degrees. The chilled water then goes back into the thermal tank for storage until it's sent out to cool off campus buildings. When it reaches 56 degrees, the water is sent back to the tank until the cycle begins again. The tank saves roughly $600,000 annually.
But with the cost of energy pushing ever upward, the pressure continues to mount. "The state has not been able to keep pace with these energy rates for state-funded buildings, " Johnson said.
So Facilities Management will once again be reducing air conditioning in non-laboratory buildings for 14 Sundays this summer, from June 25 through Sept. 24, as well as the three-day Labor Day weekend. While people who work on Sundays can continue to do so, the campus will save $200,000 by turning down the air conditioning when the fewest employees are here. This will affect the 20 or so campus buildings listed on Facilities Management's Web site: www.fm.ucla.edu. But structures that involve patient care or house students, labs, artifacts or musical instruments will be excluded, as well as computer server rooms.
In the hunt for energy savings, Facilities Management is also promoting wiser use of fume hoods, those enclosures in labs that allow for the safe handling of chemicals by venting off harmful fumes at a very high ventilation rate. An educational program will soon start to remind users to close the hood door when the fume hood is not being used.
This simple step "could save $1,000 per year per fume hood if people just remember to close the sash, " said Johnson, who noted that UCLA has more than 1,400 fume hoods. In a pilot program, Facilities Management will soon test the use of proximity detectors that will automatically turn ventilation down in fume hoods if they sense no one is standing in front of them.
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2008