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Business Officer Magazine
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Starting With Sustainability

Just as an institution commits to maintaining a link between its mission and its approach to facilities management, it also focuses on the role of energy use in its master planning.

By Apryl Motley

Infrastructure planning and sustainability initiatives are the most likely of bedfellows. It comes as no surprise that addressing concerns about energy use have been central to ongoing planning efforts as institutions implement their facilities master plans. (Read more about infrastructure planning in the article “Inner Spaces” in the February 2012 issue of Business Officer.)

Sustainable Framework

“All future building projects on campus need to focus on sustainability,” says Amanda Hoffsis, special assistant to the associate vice president of physical planning and real estate at the Ohio State University. She played a key role in developing OSU's facilities master plan, one piece of the university's infrastructure plan, which is known as the “One Ohio State Framework.”

Sustainable concepts underlie the entire Framework, which also references in-depth studies investigating energy, infrastructure, and sustainability that are documented separately. For example, Hoffsis notes that “almost all the features of new buildings at OSU have to be sustainable and must meet sustainability goals in terms of their heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.”

To that end, each new building or renovation on OSU's campus with a $4 million budget or greater will strive for U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver-level certification or higher.

Further, two OSU residential halls being outfitted with geothermal heating and cooling systems are scheduled to reopen for the fall semester. The new systems are projected to cut energy costs by one third.

In addition, Hoffsis observes that most new construction projects—both renovations and replacements—are designed to increase the concentration of OSU's activity into the campus core: “By densifying central campus, we decrease the need for driving and reduce our carbon footprint. Now, all projects are being designed in terms of sustainability.”

Energy-Efficient Purchasing

The Dallas County Community College District has placed similar focus on sustainability in its facilities. “We're doing everything we possibly can in terms of sustainability,” says Clyde Porter, associate vice chancellor for facilities management and planning/district architect for DCCCD. Porter coordinated the preparation of DCCCD's facilities master plan.

“We developed an in-house sustainability program,” he explains. “As part of my department's annual audit process, we have identified initiatives throughout the district's campuses.”

For instance, each campus provides Porter with a quarterly report on cost savings in utilities. In support of these efforts, DCCCD has formed a districtwide green team, and among its short-term objectives is seeking adoption of policies and programs that promote energy efficiency in all district operations, including Energy Star standards for appropriate purchasing. From Porter's perspective, “If each campus can save $100,000 annually in utility costs, we can continue to employ faculty.”

He is also coordinating DCCCD's implementation of ISO 50001 energy management standards, which include developing a framework for integrating energy efficiency into management practices.

Further, DCCCD participated in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's STARS Pilot Program and continues to use AASHE's Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating system to guide its sustainability efforts and infrastructure planning.

Carbon Smart

From becoming a founding signatory of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment to compiling an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions ascribable to its operations, sustainability continues to figure prominently in the University of Washington's  infrastructure planning, which is detailed in the university's “One Capital Plan.”

In particular, the Seattle campus' facilities services division is focused on environmental sustainability. “We've coined the expression 'carbon smart,'” says Charles Kennedy, associate vice president, facilities services. “Whatever type of systems we invest in for the future, we must have sustainability as part of our thinking as we advance the university's infrastructure.”

Sustainable thinking has been a primary driver in the institution's plans to develop an eco-district with the goal of creating a sustainable neighborhood and reducing carbon emissions. This effort serves as an example of the importance of planning for sustainability at the infrastructure level.

The planned eco-district will be located west of 15th Avenue in an area generally referred to as the University of Washington's West Campus. Amidst its construction of new student housing and research facilities and the anticipated opening of a new transit light rail station in 2020, the university initiated discussions with multiple local partners and stakeholders to discuss how the university's approach to developing this area could be one that focused on being “clean, safe, and green.”

Perhaps these words from an announcement encouraging attendance at a recent communitywide discussion about the eco-district best sum up the critical connection between infrastructure planning and sustainability: “This session will restore your belief that planning can and will make a difference in reducing greenhouse gases, while improving the town-gown relationship as a transit-oriented district intersects with a research, student housing, global education, and vibrant retail area to create an eco-district west of 15th Avenue.”

APRYL MOTLEY, Columbia, Maryland, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.