Campus switches on greener light
UCLA is a large university and therefore uses a large amount of energy so much that it has its own cogeneration plant.
Second-year undeclared student Alex Jeffries and other students, as well as the university, are concerned with how the universitys electricity usage impacts the environment.
David Johnson, director of Energy Services, said the buildings on campus that use the most energy are the science-based buildings, such as the Center for the Health Sciences and the NanoScience Institute.
Jeffries showed his concern through participating in the National Geographic "Preserve Our Planet" video contest, in which he is a finalist.
He said he decided to enter the contest after his friends who knew he was interested in making videos told him about it; he has applied to the film school and will find out if he is accepted at the beginning of the summer.
"It was a good outlet to make a video and creatively address environmental concerns that a lot of college students have an opinion about," Jeffries said.
Jeffriess video is titled "The Experimental Generation," in which students talk about the first time they engaged in sustainability efforts.
Jeffries believes that because students in the dorms do not have to pay an electricity bill, they are less accountable for their electricity usage, sometimes leaving on the television or lights when not there.
Students turning off the lights when they are leaving their dorm room or are the last to leave a classroom can easily conserve electricity, Johnson said.
He added that students can also suggest particular areas that would be good places for an occupancy sensor, which turns off the lights when someone is not in a particular room, such as a storage closet in which the lights are always left on.
The university is also receptive to other suggestions that help the campus to conserve energy, he said.
Officials are concerned with energy usage from both a cost and a sustainability standpoint, Johnson said.
"(Conserving energy) holds down costs for everyone, including student costs, and we think we are making a pretty big effort and are doing a pretty good job," said Jeff Hall, manager of on-campus housing maintenance.
UCLA has made a "huge amount of effort to save energy and reduce the energy footprint of the campus," he said.
One such effort is the lighting retrofit program which has been in place for the last 10 years and has resulted in a 20 percent decrease in energy usage, Johnson said.
UCLA has also replaced the incandescent bulbs that light the exit signs with longer-lasting LED bulbs, leading to a 90 percent reduction in exit-sign electricity use and a reduction in labor expended.
Another such effort is tuning and updating building management and control systems to make them more responsive to occupancy, he said.
The university is in its fourth year of closing down buildings that are not in use during the winter break. The university reduces air-conditioning and lighting while still maintaining safety conditions during the winter break. This saves approximately a quarter of a million dollars in energy costs.
This program has also been extended to include Sundays during the summer.
Johnson said an area that could be improved upon in terms of energy usage is air-conditioning; modifying air-conditioning systems to be observant of occupancy and cutting back on air-conditioning usage during weekends could contribute to improving this.
The campus is powered by the campus cogeneration plant, which supplies approximately 70 to 75 percent of the energy on campus, while the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power supplies the other 25 to 30 percent, Johnson said.
The campus cogeneration plant uses natural gas and gas from the landfill in Sepulveda Pass to power the campus. Seven to 8 percent of the power generated comes from landfill gas, considered environmentally benign and a renewable resource, which helps the campus reduce its environmental footprint.
Natural gas on the other hand is a nonrenewable resource.
But the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power uses 50 percent coal to generate its power, according to its Web site.
Hall said most of the energy used on the Hill comes from the campus cogeneration plant, and a few buildings such as the suites are powered by the Department of Water and Power. Some efforts made to conserve energy on the Hill include doing away with incandescent bulbs, putting occupancy sensors in student lounges and buying energy-efficient appliances and equipment.
Buying Energy Star small appliances and energy-efficient large equipment also saves the campus money because it makes it eligible for rebates through the gas company and the Department of Water and Power, he said.
Solar water heating also contributes to energy saving. There are four solar heating systems on four of the residential buildings: Sproul, Dykstra, Rieber and Hedrick, said Hall.
Another effort made includes ensuring all new buildings and renovation efforts are at least Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified silver, which was decided by the regents.
"LEED engages the occupants of a building and those that maintain the building to minimize the environmental footprint of the building," Johnson said.
The first residential building that will be LEED certified is Rieber Hall, which will be at least certified silver and possibly certified gold, Hall said.
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2008