U.Va.'s Sustainability Efforts Dovetail with Governor's Order

July 29, 2009 — The University of Virginia is already complying with much of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's executive order No. 82, designed to reduce state government's environmental impact.

Part of the governor's Renew Virginia effort, Kaine's executive order addresses state agency policies on energy and water use, construction standards, purchasing, energy efficiency and commuting.

"Like all large enterprises, the business operations of the Commonwealth have a significant environmental impact in terms of pollution and natural resource consumption," Kaine said in his order.

The University has already implemented or is putting in place many practices that meet or surpass the governor's goals.

"We have demonstrated our commitment to the environment by looking for every opportunity to integrate sustainable practices in our operations," said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Andrew Greene, the University's sustainability planner, said that U.Va. is serious about its commitment to the environment.

"U.Va. has a tremendous focus on how to be sustainable," Greene said. "We have a population dedicated to sustainability on Grounds, from students who come here with boundless energy to professors who research many of these topics to administrators who are committed to conducting our activities in the most sustainable manner possible."

Among the steps the University has already taken are the creation of a presidential advisory committee on sustainability and the appointment of sustainability managers.

U.Va. has been a leader in energy conservation in both new and existing buildings. The Board of Visitors adopted, effective January 2007, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, which outline sustainable principles for new construction.

"U.Va. has been using green building practices in its construction, and all the projects in the pipeline will be LEED-certified," said Don Sundgren, chief facilities officer.

Facilities Management has also deployed "Delta Force," an interdisciplinary team of experts who develop systems upgrades in existing buildings for energy and water conservation. The University has already realized $408,000 in energy savings for fiscal year 2009 from Medical Research Building 4, Delta Force's first target.

Cheryl Gomez, director of energy and utilities, said employees can help save energy.

"It's simple things like recycling, turning off your computer and lights and being more tolerant of a higher or lower temperature," Gomez said. "We're trying to get people aware of their behavior."

There is strong management support for energy-saving initiatives, and Facilities Management has several energy managers certified through the Association of Energy Engineers.

"Energy consumption is up due to the increase in the overall square footage as well as the type of new space," Sundgren said. "But we have reduced it quite a bit from what would have been a substantial increase as we have expanded the University."

During the past 10 years, the University has added nearly 2 million square feet, enrollment has increased by about 1,300 students and the workforce has grown by 3,252. Water use has also dropped during the same period.

The University recently completed a major renovation of its main heating plant, up-grading boilers to be more efficient and installing state-of-the-art pollution control equipment.

And U.Va.'s efforts have not been limited to its buildings.

"We have been very proactive in reducing the environmental impact of transportation," said Rebecca White, director of parking and transportation. "We have been experimenting with biofuels for several years and taken many steps to enhance the mass transit experience for the employees and students."

Parking and Transportation has been using bio-diesel for its bus fleet, studying performance with fuel blends ranging from five percent bio-diesel to 30 percent.

The University subsidizes the City of Charlottesville to provide free bus rides for students and employees showing University identification.

"We have had 26,000 passenger trips a month for most of the spring," White said.

The department uses global positioning system devices to track buses so passengers can determine how soon a bus will arrive at a specific stop. "It allows the rider to make better trip decisions," she said.

The University also encourages telecommuting, another of the governor's priorities. Kaine has declared Aug. 3 to be Statewide Telework Day, in which he asks state agencies and private-sector businesses to allow as many people as feasible to telecommute. Any U.Va. employee with a telecommuting agreement is encouraged to work from home that day. For more information, visit the Human Resources Web site.

U.Va. has incentives for employees to carpool to work, such as preferential parking and free occasional parker permits. When feasible, the University will build or rent office space in locations that are bicycle- and pedestrian-accessible or close to public transportation.

The University also encourages technology, such as teleconferencing, to avoid business travel. When outside meetings are necessary, U.Va. seeks facilities that are "Virginia Green" certified.

The governor's order has requested state agencies be aware of the environmental impact of their purchases. Eric Denby, director of procurement services for the University, said U.Va. has, for more than a year, required Energy Star efficiency ratings for new equipment and has been using an electronic invoice system to reduce paper. U.Va. is purchasing recycled office paper and copiers and printers that are recycled paper compatible.

The governor wants to discourage the use of individually bottled drinking water. Denby said the University will "not procure water in individual serving-sized containers made of plastic, except for use in emergencies or for safety and health reasons." He said individuals will still be able to purchase bottled water on Grounds using their own money.

Dining Services purchases recyclable and biodegradable containers for its take-way meals. It also removed trays from the cafeterias, drastically reducing the amount of wash water and energy used, as well as reducing food waste. What food waste there is at Observatory Hill Dining Hall is composted at Panorama Paydirt Compost through a student-driven program.

The University created an environmental management system involving various groups that are developing more sustainable operations on Grounds. EMS programs are now in place at Parking and Transportation and Business Operations, which includes housing, procurement services, food services and the Office of Environmental Health & Safety. Programs are nearly complete in the Department of Athletics and Facilities Management, and are being developed at several departments in the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The governor's order also created the Green Commonwealth Challenge, in which agencies and employees compete to realize savings through individual actions, such as taking public transportation and holding video conferences instead of traveling.

"Every day we each make choices that result in impacts to the environment," Kaine said in his order. "Opportunities to lessen these impacts abound."

— By Matt Kelly