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UCLA to see an increase in buildings certified green, reducing energy costs

By Lucas Bensley
Originally posted in the Daily Bruin

UCLA will see an increase in certified green buildings that use less energy in an effort to cut overall operational costs this year.

On Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents released its 2011 University of California Annual Report on Sustainable Practices. The report stated that the UC system saved $32 million last year in energy costs – $11 million more than they saved in the 2009-2010 school year.

The savings came through the addition of 38 buildings certified green by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, a rating system and design consultant group.

The LEED program assigns ratings for qualities such as air quality, materials and water efficiency that all green projects on campus attempt to meet, said Todd Lynch, the principal project planner of UCLA Capital Programs, a group that designs and develops improvement projects for UCLA.

As of 2011, the UC system has a total of 87 LEED-certified green facilities – five of which are at UCLA. These include the renovated Luskin School of Public Affairs, La Kretz Hall, the new campus police station and two student apartments on Hilgard Avenue.

“La Kretz Hall was the first green building on campus and … was a trend-setting building in terms of its structure, water efficiency and energy efficiency,” said Glen Macdonald, the director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Other projects, like Hedrick Hall and the Spieker Aquatic Center, which features improved water circulation systems that distribute heat better, are currently under review by the Green Building Council’s LEED program.

As many as nine total UCLA projects, including the South Campus Court of Sciences Student Center, are expected to go under review this year.

“There will be an explosion of green buildings on campus, not just the new green buildings but older buildings that we have gone back to retrofit for electricity, heating and water sufficiency,” said Cully Nordby, the academic director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

UCLA is saving about $30,000 and 60 or 70 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year between La Kretz Hall and the campus police station alone, Macdonald said.

While LEED standard buildings have lower operational costs because of their efficiency, their construction costs are on average about 2 percent higher than that of standard buildings, Lynch said.

To compensate, UCLA, along with the other UC campuses, has remodeled the energy systems and structures of existing buildings to reduce further energy usage.

Some buildings, like La Kretz, now have staircases outside of the building, rather than located inside the building, to save money on heating and cooling costs, Nordby said.

They also include fewer internal walls and have more open rooms, which are easier to heat and cool than smaller compartments.

“These changes aren’t always visible on the outside, but they do make a major difference in the goal of (energy) sustainability,” said Nurit Katz, the coordinator of UCLA Sustainability, a group of students and faculty dedicated to increasing energy efficiency on campus.

This year’s renovations will range from rooftop gardens to timers and occupancy sensors that turn off lights left on in empty rooms, Katz said.