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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

UC Irvine Smart Labs Wins State's Highest Environmental Honor

January 1, 2014

For the second time in five years, the University of California Irvine has won the Governor's Environmental & Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), sponsored annually by the California Environmental Protection Agency. The campus—one of 13 organizations honored with a GEELA in 2013—was recognized for its efforts to integrate environmental values and conservation of natural resources into long-term decision making and management of businesses and facilities.

Specifically, the award acknowledges the Smart Labs program implemented by UC Irvine to improve the building envelope, mechanical systems, lighting, and electrical and water conservation in campus laboratories. Beginning in 2008, the Irvine facilities/energy engineers re-engineered the ventilation, exhaust, and lighting systems in existing labs, installing sensors and software to manage energy usage. The system, for example, optimizes air exchange rates based on input from advanced air quality and occupancy sensors.

In total, UC Irvine retrofitted 10 campus buildings to reflect the Smart Labs concept. It also constructed one new facility as a Smart Lab. Both the new and retrofitted labs have generated energy savings of as much as 50 percent. In a white paper available on the NACUBO website, the UC Irvine campus discusses how a smart lab can cut energy consumption by 50 percent or more.

In 2008, the campus earned its first GEELA for developing programs to minimize the effects of transportation on climate change. Wendell Brase, UC Irvine's vice chancellor for administrative and business services, who has also chaired the University of California Climate Solutions Steering Group, leads the energy-saving efforts on campus. Further evidence of leadership commitment comes from Janet Napolitana, president of the University of California, who announced in November that the system is redoubling its efforts to achieve carbon neutrality in its operations by 2025. The UC system joins Arizona State University, Oregon State University, and the University of Florida in this commitment.


Sally Grans Korsh
Director, Facilities Management and Environmental Policy