UO Draws the Line on Energy Usage

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), September 12, 2011 | Go to article overview

UO Draws the Line on Energy Usage


Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

This much and no more is the new bottom line for energy consumption at the University of Oregon.

In what may be the first university policy of its kind in the country, the UO has pledged to hold at its current level the amount of energy used to power campus buildings and grounds, even as new buildings are added.

Meeting that goal will require a difficult balancing act in which the power consumed by new buildings will have to be offset by cutting the amount of power used by older buildings.

To help do that, new buildings will have to meet new, higher energy efficiency requirements. And into the cost of new construction will be added the cost of helping pay for retrofits of older buildings to reduce their energy consumption.

"It draws a line in the sand," said Steve Mital, the UO's sustainability coordinator. "It says we will purchase no more energy (than now)."

The new standard could cost as much as $10 million over the next 10 years through higher construction expenses and the cost of upgrading older buildings to keep energy use flat.

Over that 10-year period, the UO expects to add more than 1 million square feet of construction, all meeting the new energy standard.

Under the plan, called the Oregon Model for Sustainable Development, new buildings will have to be at least 35 percent more energy efficient than currently required under state building codes.

That's significantly more than the requirement for other state-owned buildings, which must be at least 20 percent more efficient than required by code.

Also, buildings will have to earn gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. Campus planning rules had required buildings to meet the silver LEED standards, which are a notch below gold.

The new standards won't be applied to buildings already under construction or now in the design phase.

That means the planned $160 million expansion and renovation of the Erb Memorial Union and Student Recreation Center and a planned retrofit of Straub Hall won't come under the standards, nor will a new residence hall and science building now being built.

The new policy also has a stormwater component that will help improve the management of runoff from existing streets and parking lots by having development help fund measures to filter or slow runoff from existing sources.

It also has a public education component that includes additional training in energy efficiency for new building occupants and public displays showing how those features work.

To help pay for the retrofits of older buildings, the university will establish a new Central Energy Fund. …

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