Are We Missing the Obvious?

Posted on September 24, 2012. Filed under: sustainability, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

In the past year, we’ve witnessed some of the most dramatic changes ever in higher education.  A quick and incomplete list of the forces at work includes:

  • Declining federal and state budget support,
  • Soaring tuition costs and student debt burdens,
  • Game-changing technologies in the delivery of education,
  • Restructuring economies requiring lifelong learning for workers,
  • Increasingly global competition amongst universities, and
  • Aging facilities and faculties.

Indeed, as we see the business model for higher education being “blown to bits” – to borrow jargon from the dot-com days of the late 90s – many are even questioning whether college is “worth it” anymore.

For those of us in the campus sustainability movement, we’ve been working tirelessly to reduce carbon footprints, squeeze energy and water savings out of existing facilities, incorporate sustainable design features into new buildings, reduce waste streams, advocate for environmental curricula, and transform the university physical plant itself into a laboratory for learning about sustainability.  But in my view, we’ve been missing the obvious: the rise of online education could be the biggest sustainability initiative in all of higher education.

I see three reasons to support this claim.  First, consider the environmental impact of the treadmill of new construction.  According to a recent article in GreenSource Magazine, “It can take between 20 and 80 years for the impacts of a building’s operation to catch up with the impacts of its initial construction: For the first few decades of a building’s life most of its environmental footprint is from the materials used to make it.”[1]

That statistic stopped me in my tracks.  So according to GreenSource, the annual environmental impact of operating a building represents 1.25% to 5% of the environmental impact of constructing the building.  Ask yourself, where have you focused your attention as a campus sustainability professional?  Has it been primarily on how the building will (or does) operate, or on what the building is made of and how those materials were extracted, manufactured, and transported?  Chances are that you’ve spent most of your time on the former, and little on the latter, when in fact we should have done the opposite.  Don’t get me wrong, I warmly embrace those who pursue buildings that produce more energy than they consume.  But the hard truth is that in 2012, the greenest building is the building you don’t build (but please note that you won’t get a LEED certification for that decision).

As universities evolve to a “bricks and clicks” model – to borrow another phrase from the late 90s dot-com lexicon – they can potentially serve many more enrolled students without increasing their square footage.  As my boss, Dr. Barbara Bryson, suggested to me recently, suppose a small struggling college decided to change to a model with two alternating cohorts.  While one cohort would reside on campus for a set period of time, students in the other would use the burgeoning variety of online educational tools to advance their education.  And then after a certain amount of time – perhaps a few weeks – the two cohorts would switch, with the second cohort now residing on campus, and the first cohort using the online educational tools.  Back and forth they would alternate across the span of an academic year.  With that one bold change, that struggling college could double its enrollment without adding a single square foot of additional facilities to campus.  Remember that the greenest building is the one that you don’t build?

The second reason to support this claim about online education as a sustainability initiative is one of social sustainability.  Consider last year’s free online class on artificial intelligence at Stanford.  A whopping 160,000 students registered for the course, with 20,000 finishing.  These students weren’t your typical Stanford students, with high SAT scores, stellar high school resumes, and the financial means to attend one of the world’s top universities.  Rather, these were students of all ages with an internet connection and an interest to learn, period.  Interestingly, the 20,000 students who completed the course hailed from 190 different countries[2], and over 100 volunteers translated the course into 44 languages to make this possible.[3]

Definitions of social sustainability are tricky, but access to resources and access to opportunity are both at its conceptual heart.  When intellectual content from America’s top universities becomes available at no charge to a budding young entrepreneur in Indonesia, or an oppressed woman in Saudi Arabia, or a poor factory worker in China, the world becomes a more equitable place, and the prospect for the future of humanity has brightened.  Conversely, when we restrict access to education, when we raise financial, social, technical, or digital barriers, then the world has become a less equitable place, and the future has darkened.

The final reason why I believe that the rise of online education might very well be the greatest sustainability initiative in all of higher education brings me to the famed “IPAT” equation.  Briefly, “IPAT” is a conceptual equation that tells us that environmental impact (“I”) is a product of three factors: population (“P”), the average consumption of that population (“A”), and the resource intensity of the technology consumed or used (“T”).  If we assume that the global population will reach 9.5 billion by 2050 as many expect, and if we assume a 3% increase in global GDP per year through 2050, then just to maintain today’s level of environmental impact (which is already unsustainable) would require that our technology be 5 times more efficient in 2050 than it is today.  Scary, right?  But consider the following: one of the most effective and acceptable ways to reduce population growth is to educate women.  To quote The Economist, “Educated women are more likely to go out to work, more likely to demand contraception and less likely to want large families.”[4] What if we can reduce both the growth in population as well as the resource intensity of our affluence?  Massive open online courses (MOOCs) and similar tools from your or my university could very well be the conduit to provide women in developing countries with the education that they need that would lead them into the workplace and to a future with a smaller family.  Yes, massive open online courses can lead to massive environmental change.

I’ve been in higher education long enough to know that change at universities is often slow.  At times I’m amazed at how far the campus sustainability movement has come over the past decade given the inertia we sometimes see in higher ed.  Can this glacial pace of change continue?  Curiously, about a dozen years ago, I served as the teaching assistant for an experimental online e-commerce course at the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia, with students also enrolled from the University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley.  Twelve years later, despite world-class strength in the digital humanities, UVA’s online educational offerings lagged so far behind the likes of Stanford and MIT that it arguably contributed to the painful and surreal episode of the firing and rehiring of that great institution’s president this past summer.  The lesson here is that the traditional evolution of universities might not survive the revolution of educational technologies.

This will be a new kind of conversation for us, and I am willing to bet that many of us will receive puzzled looks from senior administrators if and when we attempt to join their deliberations about online education.  My head and my gut tell me that online education should be front and center on the campus sustainability professional’s radar screen.  However, my eyes and ears tell me that aside from the occasional certificate program, we as a professional community are missing potentially the biggest initiative we could ever undertake.

[1] Malin, Nadav.  “A Material Issue,” GreenSource, September 1, 2012, http://greensource.construction.com/news/2012/09/120901-a-material-issue.asp accessed September 22, 2012.

[2] Rodriguez, C. Osvaldo, “MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats for Massive Open Online Courses,” The European Journal for Open, Distance and E-Learning, http://www.eurodl.org/?article=516, accessed September 23, 2012.

[3] Leckart, Steven, “The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever,” Wired, March 20, 2012, http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/ff_aiclass/all/, accessed September 23, 2012.

[4] “Go Forth and Multiply a Lot Less,” The Economist, October 29, 2009, http://www.economist.com/node/14743589, accessed September 23, 2012.

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Are Your Energy Savings Real? Energy Modeling and Management at Rice University

Posted on November 17, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

When are reductions in energy consumption verifiable savings?

With the emergence of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and increasing focus on energy costs and supplies, universities across America are pursuing measures to reduce their energy consumption and their greenhouse gas emissions.  As these schools attempt to measure their results and document savings, I ask how do they really know when they are saving energy?

Let’s assume that a campus building is metered for all utilities, and that these utilities can be tracked on a weekly basis.  And further, let’s assume a two-week experiment, and that at the beginning of the second week space temperatures in the building are changed as part of a new campus building temperature policy to reflect what is considered to be a more efficient range.  If the meter readings were lower in week two than week one, can a utility manager conclude that the energy conservation measure was a success?  Given our experience at Rice University, we would argue that the answer is no.

The energy consumption of a building from one time period to the next is influenced by a number of variables, including outdoor temperature, humidity, time of day, day of the week, and day of the year.  In the example above, week two could have been significantly cooler than week one, potentially leading to a false conclusion about the effectiveness of the new policy, and even masking unintended consequences of changing space temperatures.  However, by creating a weather-normalized baseline model for energy consumption as our energy managers have done at Rice and then comparing this baseline against actual meter data, we submit that utility managers can be much more confident in interpreting their results.

How might one visualize this?  Figure 1 presents one week of data for chilled water consumption at our student center, the Rice Memorial Center.  The y-axis expresses chilled water consumption, and the x-axis represents time (click the graphic to enlarge).  The red line shows the modeled baseline for chilled water consumption for that building.  The variation in the red baseline between daytime and nighttime is obvious, reflecting that we use more chilled water to condition the building during the day than we do at night.  And yet, while the model for each day looks generally similar in shape, it is not exactly the same, because in reality these days were of course not the same.  The blue line represents actual consumption, drawn straight from the chilled water meter at the building in near real-time.  What we see is that due to a variety of conservation measures enacted in that building during the summer of 2009, actual chilled water consumption is now consistently well below the baseline model.  Prior to these initiatives, the baseline and the actual meter readings would have been quite similar.  These results are weather-normalized: we’re not having to guess whether the savings might be related to a cold front or a series of cloudy days.

Figure 1

Figure 1 RMC Chilled Water Consumption

We can use this system to express cumulative building-level savings (or losses) from electricity, chilled water, and steam in dollars.  Figure 2 shows daily utility expenditures for the Rice Memorial Center over a 30-day period (click the graphic to enlarge).  The green bars represent actual daily costs, while the black lines are the predicted costs according to the baseline model.  Notice how each day has a different predicted consumption?  The blue space between the green bars and black lines indicates savings.  On the right side of Figure 2, we see that over a 30-day period, we saved $4,931.49 in steam, $1,618.11 in chilled water, and $780.13 in electricity, for a total utility savings of $7,329.74.

Figure 2

Figure 2 RMC Utility Expenditures

The ability to plot meter data against a predictive baseline is a game-changer for campus energy conservation.  Every two weeks, we hold an interdepartmental meeting to review the performance of a number of our campus buildings using this tool.  Sometimes we see unexpected results that trigger maintenance work orders.  Sometimes we find buildings whose nighttime setback temperatures have been placed in an override mode and need to be restored (and we can see the amount of money that we lost as a result of that decision).  In the case of our own facilities building, when an unexpected electrical load caused us to consume more electricity than predicted by the model, we were able to estimate the size of the additional load, and our maintenance manager tracked it down to a baking booth in the paint shop that had been switched on and left on for several days.  As one of my colleagues frequently observes, this tool allows us to shine the bright light of truth on how we’re consuming energy on our campus.

Rice’s approach to energy modeling is now the basis of a campus energy management product in development by Incuity Software, a subsidiary of Rockwell Automation.  We are working to embed within this system the ability to track greenhouse gas emissions, which would enable us to display and report campus-level and building-level predicted and actual carbon footprints, divisible by type of utility.  The position of our energy management team is that unless energy consumption is tracked against a weather-normalized baseline, we are suspicious of claims of actual savings.  The implications for greenhouse gas reporting are clear: as we develop our inventories and compare them with previous years, did we enact measures that genuinely reduced our emissions, or did cooperative weather make us lucky?  Without a proper baseline, we just don’t know.

(note: a modified version of this posting appeared in the November 2009 edition of the ACUPCC Implementer newsletter)

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Cloud 37: Lessons from LEED

Posted on August 16, 2009. Filed under: sustainability, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Last week, one of my colleagues exclaimed that she was on Cloud 9, or rather, Cloud 37.  She’s not come down since.

Over the last several years, Rice has undertaken an ambitious $1 billion construction program, and the bulk of these facilities are now open.  We’re in celebration mode.  Almost all of our new buildings will be submitted for certification under the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, the industry standard for green building in the US that recognizes buildings based on their environmental performance at the increasing levels of LEED-certified, silver, gold, or platinum.  Earlier this month, we learned that one of our new buildings – the Rice Children’s Campus – had achieved certification at the level of LEED-Silver, scoring 37 points (almost gold!).  This marks the very first building at Rice to earn LEED certification at any level (although we expect many more to soon follow).

To date, I’ve worked on approximately a dozen LEED projects for new construction, and not all of them have left me on Cloud 9, or Cloud 37 as it may be.  In fact, there have been a number of dark clouds too.  My experiences – positive and negative – have taught me several process-oriented lessons about LEED that I believe are of value to other campus sustainability professionals as they participate in LEED projects on their own campuses.  They are as follows:

1. Commit from the beginning. Our biggest LEED train-wreck came when we decided to “do LEED” late in the design process of a project.  The project team had not been selected based on LEED credentials, and we quickly discovered both a lack of experience and interest amongst key team members.  After several difficult months, we abandoned the LEED process, although it wasn’t a complete loss as several design improvements were directly attributable to our flirtation with LEED.  The confusion led us to adopt a Sustainable Facilities Policy that clearly outlines our department’s LEED goals for future projects, a remedy that should prevent this sort of problem from occurring again.

2. Seek experienced consultants. Commitment to LEED by the university is just the first step.  The composition of the project team is very important, and prior LEED experience matters, although a lack of experience is not an insurmountable obstacle.  As the university interviews potential architects, contractors, and MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) engineers, they should review not only the LEED experience of each of these consultants, but also (and this is important) of the individuals who will represent these firms on the project team.  Prior LEED experience by the civil engineer and landscape architect are of course helpful too, but not as critical as with the aforementioned team members.

3. Designate the LEED-er. The LEED process needs a steward, and it shouldn’t be the university.  In fact, my preference is to hire a consultant specifically to lead the LEED process, one with a lengthy resume of prior LEED projects and a deep knowledge of a variety of LEED ratings systems and the associated rulings and intricacies of those systems.  This LEED-er can be the commissioning agent, which yields the benefit of engaging the commissioning perspective throughout the project’s design.  However, if the LEED responsibilities lie with one of the primary consultants, such as the architect, MEP, or contractor, then my experience is that the busier they become in the project, the greater the tendency to let their LEED responsibilities slip.

4. Set priorities. It’s not enough for the university to state an expectation that a project will achieve a certain level of LEED certification.  There are numerous pathways to certification, and the consultants need to know what aspects of LEED are of particular importance to the university.  For us, it’s typically energy conservation.

5. Assign responsibility. From the beginning, each project team member should understand their LEED responsibilities.  This includes the credits that they will be expected to complete and the data that they will need to collect either to support their own submittals or those of other team members.

6. Set deadlines. Hand-in-hand with assigning responsibility is the need to set deadlines.  I’ve spent countless hours in meetings where we’ve spun our wheels going down the LEED checklist, listening to consultants say “oh yeah, I need to get to that.”  Procrastination has consequences, and opportunities will be lost.  The following two points highlight the importance for the LEED-er to connect responsibilities with deadlines.

7. Fast-track the energy model. From my perspective, there is no component of the LEED process more important than the energy model, which quantifies the proposed building’s energy consumption and expresses savings in comparison with a baseline “to code” alternate.  If the energy model is prepared in a timely fashion, it serves as a powerful tool that enables the project team to understand the best opportunities for improving their design to save energy.  I’ve participated in meetings where hundreds of thousands of dollars of expected annual utility costs were shed, based on insights and scenarios from a timely energy model.  On the other hand, some of my greatest moments of frustration engaging in the design process have come from MEPs who drag their feet in preparing the building’s energy model.  In fact, with one project, the energy model was nearly a year late, so late that the building was already close to completion.  Any opportunity to use the energy model to improve the design had long since evaporated, and with it the chance to save significant money for the university.

The need for a timely energy model goes beyond just influencing the project’s design.  Up to 10 LEED points are available for energy conservation – potentially a sizable share of the final point total – and uncertainty over the number of anticipated energy conservation points makes estimating the project’s overall LEED point total and level of certification difficult.  On several projects, if we had known the results of the energy model sooner than we did, we might have targeted (and ultimately achieved) higher levels of LEED certification.  My conclusion is that there are numerous compelling reasons to fast-track the energy model (and conversely, no clear reasons not to).

8. Submit the design credits early. For a small fee, the USGBC allows project teams to submit design-related LEED credits early, and then follow-up with construction-related credits (and deferred design credits) at a later date.  I find this opportunity valuable for several reasons.  First, as many of the LEED prerequisites are design-oriented, if there are any potential problems with these mandatory credits, the issues will be identified early enough such that corrective action can be incorporated into the project’s construction.  Second, a two-stage submittal tends to prevent procrastination.  Rather, it has the effect of spreading the work more evenly across the project’s timeline.  Third, early knowledge of expected design credits adds certainty to the project’s final LEED outcome, and could even embolden a team to “stretch” for a higher goal.

9. Want it! Implementing the previous eight recommendations will in my view significantly improve the LEED process for a new building, but there’s still something missing here, and that’s setting the right tone.  You have to want it!  In my experience, there is a noticeable difference in the performance of the project teams that are genuinely enthusiastic about pursuing LEED certification and those who think it’s just one more requirement.  The university’s team members need to convey a consistent desire to achieve the project’s environmental goals, and likewise should choose those consultants who also demonstrate a similar attitude.  LEED can be fun with a motivated team, and a nightmare with those who would just as soon not be bothered.

With these nine lessons, hopefully we’ll have more of our campus sustainabilty professionals on cloud nine celebrating successful LEED projects.  Of course, no project is perfect, and problems always arise.  However, by carefully constructing the LEED process, the campus sustainabilty professional can at least ensure that when dark clouds appear, they’re more likely to have a silver (or gold, or platinum) lining.

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In 100 Years (Your Campus May Resemble Venice)

Posted on December 4, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Earlier this week, the tides of the Adriatic Sea submerged the Italian city of Venice. The New York Times published an astonishing set of photographs of Venetians and tourists attempting to go about their days, seemingly defiant of the flood. One picture captured tourists thigh-deep in water in Saint Mark’s Square, another showed fashionably-dressed teens strolling down a street and casting a glance at a shopkeeper bailing-out his store, and my favorite featured a group of gondoliers eating their breakfast at an outdoor café table… in several feet of water. As I clicked through these images, I couldn’t help but think that I was not only glimpsing the past (which is unavoidable with Venice) but also the future.

The past and the future of my employer, Rice University, have been on my mind a lot lately. The year 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first entering class at Rice (then known as the Rice Institute). An observer in 1912 would have noted that a tuition-free institution of higher education had opened to serve the white men and women of Houston and the state of Texas. (S)he would likely have wondered – at least privately – about the wisdom of placing this institute beyond the reach of the streetcar, past the end of any paved road, outside the edge of the small but growing city of Houston (population approx. 80,000), upon a mostly treeless and entirely remote muddy campus of prairies and swamps.

That same observer today would find the place utterly unrecognizable. That muddy swamp is now a heavily-wooded thriving university campus, a park-like oasis set within the heart of our nation’s fourth largest city. That white Texan student body is now international, multi-racial, and tuition-paying. That remote location is across the (now paved) street from the world’s largest medical complex, the Texas Medical Center. Searching for any reminder of 1912, perhaps that observer would remark that at least the nearby streetcar is still there, not knowing that it had be removed around 1940 and only recently rebuilt at great expense. The world can change a lot in a single century.

One change not readily visible but no less important to this discussion is that Rice is now six feet lower in elevation than in 1912.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–> When the university was founded, the campus was approximately 56 feet above sea level; now it’s 50 feet (and at 50 miles inland, you get a sense of the flat slopes of the Texas coast). How does that happen? Heavy withdrawals of groundwater across greater Houston caused some areas to subside by as much as 10 feet between 1906 and 2000.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[2]<!–[endif]–> One suburban neighborhood – the Brownwood subdivision – literally sank into Galveston Bay, and following Hurricane Alicia in 1983 was condemned and converted into a nature preserve.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[3]<!–[endif]–> Thankfully, after nearly half a century of inaction despite compelling scientific evidence (sound familiar?), a special regulatory district was formed to prevent further subsidence, and elevations in most of the Houston area have since stabilized.

With the 100th anniversary of Rice rapidly approaching, we are enacting a 10-point plan to shape the next century on our campus, known to the Rice community as the Vision for the Second Century. As I look ahead to these next 100 years of Rice University, I recognize that we will continue to lose elevation, not due to subsidence but to the effects of global climate change. The question is by how much. The 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects a global sea level rise of between 0.18 and 0.59 meters (7-23 inches) by the end of the century (mostly due to thermal expansion and the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps).<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[4]<!–[endif]–> However, the wild cards in the deck are the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which were not taken into account in the IPCC’s estimates due to uncertainties of how quickly these sheets would melt.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[5]<!–[endif]–> In other words, the estimate they provide is too conservative. NASA climate scientist James Hansen suggests that a more appropriate estimate is several meters under a business-as-usual scenario.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[6]<!–[endif]–> The lab of Dr. Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona reports that “Our work… suggests that the Earth will be warm enough to melt the Greenland Ice Sheet in less than 150 years. Unless, that is, efforts are made to slow global warming.”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[7]<!–[endif]–> Such an event would result in a sea-level rise of 23 feet.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[8]<!–[endif]–> As for the West Antarctic ice sheet, researchers at the British Antarctic Survey estimate such a melting would produce at least a 16 foot rise in sea levels.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[9]<!–[endif]–>

The Overpeck lab has created a viewer that uses a map with a 1-km resolution that shows the effect of sea level increases between 1 and 6 meters at increments of 1 meter. If you’re a map geek like me, you’ll love this tool. Using their viewer, you’ll quickly see how vulnerable certain areas of our country (and world) are to even slight increases in elevation, such as south Florida and most of southern Louisiana below Interstate 10.

Let’s suppose that sea levels rise by 3 meters by the end of the century (about 10 feet). For those of us on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, I will note for reference that the storm surge for the recent Hurricane Ike peaked at 17.48 feet, and with waves on top of the storm surge, the maximum high water mark was 21.2 feet.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[10]<!–[endif]–> A 3-meter rise brings Rice’s elevation down to 40 feet above sea level. While that news is not good for Rice, a 3-meter increase in sea level is positively alarming for a number of other universities. For example, the University of Miami would be at sea level, and its medical school 7 feet below sea level. Lamar University in southeast Texas would be 3 feet under water, as would The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City. The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas – the state’s oldest medical school – would be at sea level. Ditto for Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, would take on water when tides reach 3 feet above normal.

If we assume a scenario of a 6-meter rise in sea level (about 20 feet), Rice drops to 30 feet in elevation, just past the reach of the storm surge. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts would sit right at sea level. LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a city that may become the post-Katrina economic engine of Louisiana, would be just 19 feet above sea level, within striking range of a significant storm surge, and much closer to the coastline. And what about if both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets collapse over the next century or two? These losses, combined with thermal expansion of ocean waters due to warming, could result in a sea level rise of about 41 feet (23 feet + 16 feet + 23 inches). This would place the Rice campus at less than 10 feet above sea level, easily within the storm surge of a hurricane. In that case, our Vision for the Third Century had better include a seawall.

The idea that many of our campuses might someday resemble the images from Venice is shocking. However, it is certainly well within the realm of possibility. In a century or two, those wading tourists in Venice’s Saint Mark’s Square could instead be in Harvard Square, those fashionable teens strolling thigh-deep in water past a flooded store could be midshipmen at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis dressed in their white uniforms filing through the tide of the Chesapeake Bay past the Nimitz Library, and those dining gondoliers with seawater just below their tablecloth could instead be University of Miami students sipping a Starbuck’s in the surf outside the University Center (near the ironically named Storm Surge Café).

We know that the world can change rapidly in a single century, especially this coming century. We know that a host of external environmental factors will shape the future of our campuses at a level never seen before. As campus sustainability professionals, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. If we fail, our future might be Venice, a beautiful curiosity losing a long battle with the sea, and we can’t let that be so.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[4]<!–[endif]–> Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Basis – Summary for Policy Makers, p. 13, http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf, accessed November 29, 2008.

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The Start-Up Guide for the Campus Sustainability Professional

Posted on November 21, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

We’re now over a week past the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE’s) 2008 conference and my mind has not stopped racing.  With numerous presenters providing ideas, insights, and lessons from leading campus sustainability programs, I feel like my to-do list doubled in three short days.  We’re understaffed and overworked, right?  I’m not kidding when I say that we’re going to need to focus on sustaining the “sustainers”. 

A genuine source of optimism at the AASHE conference was that the ranks of the “sustainers” are growing rapidly.  When I first joined Rice in December 2004, I estimated that there were about 50-75 campus sustainability professionals in the US.  By late 2008, I’m now counting closer to 170, although I did read an article that suggests the number could be over 250.  That same article forecasts that over 1,000 schools will employ a sustainability professional by the end of the decade. 

If we are in fact facing a quadrupling of our ranks by the next AASHE biannual conference in 2010, then it’s time to devote some attention to advising our forthcoming new peers on how to get started.  I have ten pointers to share, and I welcome others to add their own. 

  1. Meet the people.  Success in this profession depends upon relationships and knowing who does what on a university campus, including amongst the students.  The first several months for a campus sustainability professional should be booked solid with introductory meetings, from VPs to Custodial Supervisors to Deans to Project Managers to Student Leaders to Maintenance Supervisors to Faculty, etc.  You’re not going to know exactly what to say, and your new colleagues may not yet understand how it is that you’ll be able to help them, but nevertheless establishing the relationship is critical.  As time goes on, your role will often be to “play matchmaker” and “connect the dots”. 
  2. Conduct a preliminary assessment.  How and what is your university doing from a sustainability perspective?  You (and your administration) need to know the story, and when you do the gaps and opportunities will become clear.  The AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) is a new tool that will help in this endeavor, even if you don’t follow it exactly or formally.
  3. Find the data.  How much energy is your university consuming?  How about water?  What’s your recycling rate?  What’s your carbon footprint?  You can’t effectively manage what you don’t measure, and you can’t provide a proper assessment without good data (or noting the data gaps).
  4. Develop a sustainability web site.  You will need to establish an online presence, and with today’s content management systems anyone can manage and edit a web site.  Until you do so, your program runs the risk of being unknown both inside and outside of your campus.
  5. Join the Green Schools listserv.  The ability to ask questions of your peers and to receive quick responses is invaluable.  The Green Schools (GRNSCH-L) listserv links campus sustainability professionals together in a virtual email community, and is well-used as a vehicle for information sharing.
  6. Subscribe to the AASHE e-bulletin.  This free weekly e-newsletter compiled by the staff at AASHE provides a snapshot of campus sustainability news from all across higher education.  There is no better way to keep up with the exploding campus sustainability movement than this resource. 
  7. Subscribe to the right periodicals.  You will soon find yourself buried beneath a pile of unread magazines, some of which are basically wall-to-wall advertising.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of the free magazines, so much so that you’ll miss what’s important.  In my view, there are three periodicals that you should definitely subscribe to, and a fourth that I would also recommend as a resource.  First, there is no better source for unbiased general green building news and product assessments than Environmental Building News.  The last time I checked the annual subscription rate was $99, but I’ve certainly found that it’s well worth the cost.  Second, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) publishes a free magazine called High Performing Buildings that is full of hard data and case studies about green building, with an emphasis on energy use and conservation.  ASHRAE is an organization that commands respect from even the most doubtful engineers who might try to block the introduction of sustainable design concepts.  Third, the recently launched Sustainability: The Journal of Record offers real promise as a becoming the magazine of the campus sustainability professional (calling it a journal is a bit misleading as its more accessible and less research-heavy than a typical journal).  Together, these three publications offer a solid foundation for getting the most out of your periodicals.  A fourth magazine, GreenSource, provides a useful albeit non-essential assortment of case studies, broad topical features, and product advertising.  This magazine is free to industry professionals (you’ll probably need to call customer service as its not apparent from the web site how to get around the cost for general subscriptions).
  8. Purchase the LEED guide.  The US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is the standard for green building in the US.  The LEED guidebooks for New Construction and for Existing Buildings are quite accessible to non-architects (which describes most campus sustainability professionals), and will help to provide some structure to your thinking of how to approach sustainable design concepts in new and existing facilities. 
  9. Attend the leading campus sustainability conferences.  Mark your calendar for the AASHE and Greening of the Campus conferences.  These two biannual events alternate in years, and are the best opportunities to learn from and interact with your peers at a national level.   
  10. Join AASHE.  Self evident by now, right?  This is your professional organization, and with a paid membership anyone on your campus can access AASHE’s growing and highly useful resource center of best practices in campus sustainability.  I’ve found that my membership fee has easily been recovered in time saved through the AASHE resource center over and over again.

I would welcome additions to or critiques of this list.

James L. Elder, “Think Systemically, Act Cooperatively.”  Sustainability: The Journal of Record, October 2008, p. 319-328.

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Between the Sessions: Taking the Emotional Pulse at AASHE 2008

Posted on November 12, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

The AASHE 2008 program offers opportunities for campus sustainability professionals to speak with each other on a broad range of topics: master planning, service learning, utility efficiency, carbon footprinting, and strategies for change, just to name a few. However, it’s only between the sessions where we ask an important professional question: “How are you?”

Ours is a new profession, and many of us are in uncharted territory virtually every day. As such, I find it’s useful when I gather with my peers to take check-in on their emotional pulse. Following is what I’m hearing:

  • First, without exception, campus sustainability professionals are feeling overworked. Many are having difficulty keeping-up with their workloads, and some appear to be sacrificing their personal well-being in the process.
  • Second, many expressed the need for full-time support staff. One even received a promise of multiple support staff upon his hiring, and that promise remains unfulfilled a year later.
  • Third, some are operating without a budget, and many find the lack of financial resources to support projects and initiatives frustrating, especially when such projects have a clear economic and immediate economic payback.
  • Fourth, some mentioned an inability to say no when a request or an opportunity crosses their desk, no matter how busy they already are.
  • Fifth, all are driven by a deep sense of urgency – even emergency – in their work. With many experts suggesting that our window to act on climate change is literally just a few more years in order to avoid dangerous tipping points, it’s no wonder that campus sustainability professionals feel the need to overwork themselves.
  • And sixth, given all of the above, it is quite remarkable that many of my peers still feel hopeful. Certainly the upcoming administration of President-Elect Barack Obama is a hot topic of conversation at AASHE 2008, and there is a genuine belief that issues like energy and climate change will be addressed soon with a thoughtful, science-driven approach. But the sense of hope is not just a function of national politics. Perhaps it’s because they are working so hard on sustainability issues, and because they see so many other people joining the profession and working so hard, that there’s a sense that real progress is being made. But make no mistake, it’s a cautious hope.

So, with a sense of great burden, of being under-equipped and overworked, the surprise is not just that campus sustainability professionals remain hopeful. It’s also that no matter the challenges, they also still seem to love their work. I continue to detect a sense of genuine fulfillment amongst my peers. But I wonder how long that will last. Are we running the risk that the profession itself as currently practiced is unsustainable?

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A Movement Reaches Adulthood (AASHE 2008, Opening Night)

Posted on November 10, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

In the spring of 1990, Oberlin College Professor David Orr launched a movement.

Students graduating from Arkansas College (now Lyons College) in Batesville, Arkansas in 1990 may never know that their commencement speaker that year delivered an address that literally changed higher education. Dr. Orr, in posing the provocative question “What is Education For?”, challenged the university with an assignment to:

“…examine resource flows on this campus: food, energy, water, materials, and waste. Faculty and students should together study the wells, mines, farms, feedlots, and forests that supply the campus as well as the dumps where you send your waste. Collectively… support better alternatives that do less environmental damage, lower carbon dioxide emissions, reduce use of toxic substances, promote energy efficiency and the use of solar energy, help to build a sustainable regional economy, cut long-term costs, and provide an example to other institutions. The results of these studies should be woven into the curriculum as interdisciplinary courses, seminars, lectures, and research. No student should graduate without understanding how to analyze resource flows and without the opportunity to participate in the creation of real solutions to real problems.”[1]

This assignment marked the beginning of the modern era of the campus sustainability movement. Within just a few years, leaders at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston – inspired by Dr. Orr – hired the first campus sustainability officer, George Bandy.[2] By January 2005, approximately 50 people held titles as campus sustainability professionals. This emerging profession needed a professional organization, and thus the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) was founded in 2006 to promote sustainability in higher education. The AASHE 2006 conference in Tempe, Arizona drew over 650 registrants, making it at that time the largest campus sustainability conference ever. By the fall of 2008, the ranks of the campus sustainability professional had grown to approximately 160, with new positions created at the rate of about one a week.

Today, 1,700 people are gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for AASHE 2008 in what I can only assume is once again the largest campus sustainability conference ever. This movement is no longer on the periphery of higher education. It is not a boutique activity of “the haves”. This is the mainstream.

As I sat in the audience for the opening keynote address from Lester Brown, I found myself thinking about David Orr, and about the folks who created the first campus sustainability officer position at UTHSC-Houston (who were all eventually shown the door by an administration that didn’t get it), and about those early campus sustainability professionals who spent considerable time just trying to convince others of the relevance of their work, and I wondered if they felt the same optimism and pride that I was feeling that finally – finally – this movement has come of age.

[2] Yes, others played this role in some form or another, but to my knowledge George Bandy was the first to hold the title of a campus sustainability officer.

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Post-Storm Lessons in Energy Planning (The Hurricane Ike Edition, Part 2)

Posted on October 13, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Today marks the one month anniversary of Hurricane Ike. In Houston, the tree canopy is noticeably thinner, tarps still cover many roofs, and certain city services have been suspended to enable workers to focus on debris collection. However, life for most in this city is returning to normal. Galveston is another story altogether. To paraphrase an article in Sunday’s edition of the Galveston County Daily News, residents are experiencing a “new normal,” that is, something quite different than before. With only 60% of that city’s population back on the island, uncertainty about the future and an incomplete understanding of what just happened are the prevailing moods.

Over the past month, I’ve found myself thinking quite often about how the bonds of modern civilization are more fragile than I had suspected, and how the notion of sustainability fits into the equation. The hurricane in the financial markets has confirmed this sense of the society’s thin veneer, but I’ll focus my comments on meteorological hurricanes, not economic ones. I have identified a few lessons from Rice’s experience with Hurricane Ike that will hopefully enable other campus sustainability professionals to better plan for the provision of utilities and supporting infrastructure on their campuses, especially in the event of disasters.

At Rice, our campus imports both electricity and natural gas, the latter of which fires a combined heat and power system that produces electricity and steam. On a typical day, our central plant operators can vary the mix of inputs to produce our campus utilities, depending upon a variety of conditions including the cost of each source. During a crisis event when electricity is not available from the power grid, we are able to switch entirely to natural gas to provide heating, cooling, and power for our designated essential facilities on campus. The first lesson is that diverse energy systems create operating options and reduce the risk of disruption. Monocultures are vulnerable to exogenous shocks; variation reduces the susceptibility to catastrophic failure.

I should point out that it’s not just the multiple inputs that make the system diverse. At my home, I also import electricity and natural gas. The difference is that I cannot switch between sources to meet my basic needs. Natural gas doesn’t help me with refrigeration or cooling or lighting or power. If I owned a natural gas outdoor grill, I would at least be able to cook using a source other than my electric stove and oven (albeit this still requires different hardware – a grill). The fact is, natural gas only provides my home with hot water and heat, and the furnace will not operate without electricity. Despite the two energy sources, what I really have are two energy monocultures.

Energy system diversity is not enough, as Rice learned during the storm. The second lesson is that systems intersect. Rice’s energy system requires water to supply boilers, chillers, and the cooling tower. Without a reliable supply of water, our energy system cannot function indefinitely.

Rice purchases most of its water supply from the City of Houston, but we also have a water well on campus that in any given year meets up to 20% of our water needs. During an emergency, we can switch entirely to well water, an important illustration of the benefits of system diversity. However, during the storm, a power surge burned-out the motor of the pump on the water well, leaving Rice dependent upon City water. When the City’s pumping station at the Trinity River went down, water pressure dropped across Houston, threatening the availability of water and by extension energy on campus. The third lesson is that despite system diversity, the failure of a single component can cause the entire system – or several systems – to crash. Knowing what those weak points are, and understanding the conditions under which they might fail, will enable planning for a stronger system.

As an aside, with the threat of outages of both water and energy, and a replacement pump nowhere to be found, a member of Rice’s crisis management team contacted two alums in the oil services industry for help. They located a pump in Tennessee and arranged for it to be transported to Houston. Rice police met the delivery truck in Louisiana and provided an escort into Houston, and the pump was installed in just enough time to keep the campus energy system from crashing.

Rice admittedly has a level of independence from “the grid” that most of us do not enjoy at our homes. There are of course differing scales of energy independence. In political discussions, energy independence tends to mean not relying upon petro-dictators for oil. This kind of energy independence does little for reducing the energy monocultures that most of us live in today. In a previous post, I discussed the need to diversify our energy inputs while reducing our exposure to the fossil fuel operating system. The past month has taught me a fourth lesson, which is the need to drive energy independence to a localized level, especially for certain critical facilities.

I will illustrate the importance of this fourth lesson by providing an example of the first three. From a transportation perspective, most of Houston is a monoculture. In 1991, Joel Garreau wrote in Edge City: Life on the New Frontier that traveling around Houston without a car is like traveling around Venice without a boat. This over-reliance upon the automobile makes mobility in Houston especially vulnerable to exogenous shocks, such as hurricanes (a violation of lesson one). Without the reliable flow of gasoline, Houston shuts down. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, Houston faced a gasoline shortage. Many stations had run dry prior to the storm as motorists topped-off their tanks, but there’s more to the story. As we learned from lesson two, systems intersect. Gas stations need electricity, not just gasoline. Even those stations with gas in their underground storage tanks could not sell it because the pumps could not operate without electricity. The gas pumps were the critical component from lesson three that caused an entire system – several systems, actually – to crash. Until electricity was restored, a process that took many days and even weeks, gas stations were powerless to feed Houston’s gasoline-dependent transportation system.

Certainly facilities like hospitals are designed with a high degree of energy independence, and as I’ve discussed, our campus can function somewhat independently as well. But what about grocery stores and gas stations and banks? These are essential too. An entire gas station need not be able to function in the event of a power outage: just the pumps. An attendant could accept cash transactions and record credit card purchases through imprints. Had these pumps been designed to operate independent of the broader electrical grid, life in Houston would have recovered far more quickly than it did.

A more sustainable society in my view is one with a degree of decentralization and diversity that makes us less vulnerable to extreme events, which we are sure to see more of as our climate continues to change and as energy supplies tighten. For those planning in a campus environment, this suggests thinking about energy with some additional criteria in mind: avoiding monocultures, understanding where and how systems intersect, identifying critical points where failure can occur, and striving for localized energy independence. Many of us dream about being “off the grid” – able to meet our needs through renewable energy and sustainable water strategies on our own sites without depending upon the broader utility infrastructure and its inputs. But failure to take these lessons into account could mean that we’re “off the grid” in a different sense. That is, powerless.

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How Twenty Miles Saved a City (The Hurricane Ike Edition, Part 1)

Posted on September 22, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

While people in most parts of the United States welcome the arrival of summer, those of us living along the Gulf Coast and in the coastal communities of the Southeast note the season’s arrival with a certain amount of anxiety, and mark its passing with a sense of relief. It’s not so much the heat and the humidity, although we (or at least I) look forward to that about as much as a Chicagoan pines for the frigid winds blowing off of Lake Michigan on a January morning. The real source of worry is that we must once again endure that meteorological game of Russian Roulette known as hurricane season.

Imagine for a moment having to keep one eye on the tropics, making judgments of where a churning storm might land, how strong it might be at landfall, and whether you and your family should shelter in place or evacuate. And if a storm does strike, will anyone be hurt? What will become of your home? Your neighborhood? Your city? Will everyone and everything survive? Or this time, will it all be washed away? Hurricane season is serious business. It’s no wonder that “summertime” music comes from places like southern California, rather than the otherwise rich Gulf coast musical mecca of New Orleans.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, September 13th, the eye of Hurricane Ike made landfall on the east end of Galveston Island in Texas, and pushed inland across the Houston metropolitan area, following a path generally parallel to but a few miles to the east of Interstate 45. Houston was pummeled, and a week later half the city was still without power. The City of Galveston was devastated by the storm, so much so that the remaining people who chose to ride out the storm were ordered to leave. The communities of Bolivar Peninsula , just a short ferry ride from the northeastern tip of Galveston, simply do not exist any longer. They are gone.

People who live with the reality of hurricanes are well aware of hurricane geography. The counter-clockwise circulation of the storm means that the wettest side of the system is the eastern side, with water picked-up from the ocean and dumped onto land disproportionately in the northeast quadrant. This so-called “dirty” side of the storm often brings tornadoes, further adding to the destruction. Worse still, this is the side of the storm that creates the largest storm surge, where a dome of seawater is literally pushed inland by the strong winds. The storm surge in Galveston was 12 feet. The highest point on the island is 17 feet, which is the seawall that protects a portion of the city from the Gulf (prior to construction of the seawall in 1902, the highest point was less than 9 feet above sea level). Waves crashed over the seawall, but the full force of the surge was blunted by the seawall on the eastern side of the island. The west end had no such protection.

Had Hurricane Ike made landfall literally twenty miles to the west, I might very well be writing about Galveston in the past tense. The predicted storm surge to the east of the eye was 20 feet, which would have overtopped Galveston’s seawall and the entire island. Instead, the lesser-populated Bolivar Peninsula took the peak surge, and will never be the same. Progressing inland, moving the eye just 20 miles westward would have put the most densely populated portions of Houston on the dirty side of the storm, with the peak surge thus pushing into Galveston Bay and some of the Houston-area bayous, creating the potential for serious flooding. Most of us in Houston are actually feeling pretty lucky, all things considered.

I will devote a few entries for this blog to lessons from Hurricane Ike, but I’d like to briefly flirt with the messy topic of professional responsibility. In my previous job as an urban planning consultant, I personally billed quite a number of hours to projects related to proposing or studying the creation of special districts to encourage development in a number of Texas coastal communities, including Galveston. The Galveston districts were on the west side of the island, beyond the protection of the seawall. And therein you see the dilemma: where and under what circumstances is development appropriate, what role can and should government take in controlling development (especially on barrier islands), and what are the obligations of a professional consultant even if development in such locations has the backing of government?

These are not easy questions to answer, and in the wake of the storm, I’ve not been able to escape them. When I ask myself what a sustainability professional might have done differently than an ordinary consultant, I believe the answers can be derived from some of the basic characteristics of the profession:

  • First, we are conversation starters. We don’t necessarily have the answers, but we raise critical issues of environmental consequence.
  • Second, we connect the dots, whether it’s with issues or with making sure the right people are speaking with each other. Getting the right people to the table can be critical to bringing about more sustainable outcomes.
  • Third, we often frame discussions further into the future than general practice, which allows issues of longer-term risks to not be entirely drowned-out by shorter-term interests.
  • Fourth, the nature of our profession is that in many instances we have a particular point of view or framework based on ecological principles that drives decision-making, which keeps us from playing both sides of an issue (depending on who is paying the bills) as readily as a typical consultant.
  • And fifth, we are systems-thinkers rather than silo-thinkers, and that makes it harder for us to disassociate ourselves from unsustainable outcomes by saying that it wasn’t our job to consider “the big picture”.

With that said, perhaps a sustainability consultant would have approached this issue of the creation of incentives to spur development on an unprotected section of a barrier island by first asking whether the same desired outcomes could be achieved by focusing on redevelopment of areas that already have structural protection. If not, then that consultant might organize a scenario planning session, engaging experts who could speak to the probabilities of storms of a particular size and strength, and how structures and infrastructure would perform under those conditions, and whether steps are available to bring levels of damage to within an acceptable range. This would mean that the politicians who ultimately decide whether such districts are created would be presented with (or not allowed to avoid) critical information concerning risk.

But let’s be frank. When you’re a junior-level person in a typical consulting firm asking hard questions that a client might not want to hear, you risk your job, not to mention your firm’s ability to get future work from that client. It’s never easy speaking truth to power, and that needs to change. At least universities (the sector where I now work) don’t typically punish those (as harshly) who are willing to speak honestly about challenging subjects. No wonder I left consulting!

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Questioning Assumptions

Posted on September 3, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

There are times when we stumble into our lessons.

A few years ago, when I was first getting my feet wet as a campus sustainability professional, I was unexpectedly called upon in the middle of a design meeting for a new building and asked to lead a conversation about energy efficiency. As my mind began to race, I found myself thinking that there was about 200 years of combined design and construction experience assembled at the table, and that I was without a doubt the least experienced of the group. My eyes must have been as wide as saucers.

I began by charting the rapid increase in energy costs to our university. I explained that every dollar spent on utilities is a dollar that can’t be spent on teaching, research, students, or any other aspect of the school’s educational mission. I encouraged the design team to make every effort to embed energy efficiency into the building’s design. It was a pep rally speech, and it was going nowhere.

I was grasping, so I asked the mechanical engineers to briefly explain their design to me. I have no background in mechanical engineering, and I struggled to follow their answer. I then asked a question that has since served me well: “Tell me about the assumptions that guided your design.”

I soon learned that the HVAC systems of buildings are designed to particular summer- and winter-time thresholds set by ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) using fifteen years of historical hourly weather data. The summer design temperature is the point that contains 99% of all of the hourly summer readings, meaning the threshold will only be exceeded 1% of the time, on average. Similarly, the winter design temperature is set at the 99% condition, with only 1 hour in every 100 falling below this bound during a typical winter.

For the project at hand, the upper bound was 97 degrees, which seemed reasonable enough. However, the design team reported that they were using a winter design temperature of 20 degrees. Suddenly, there was no doubt who in the room was from Houston and who was not.

I’ve lived in Houston for a combined 26 years. I remarked that I could probably count on one hand the number of times that the temperature has dropped below 20 degrees during those 26 years, and that’s probably true. The coldest month in Houston is January, where the average high is 63 degrees and the average low is 45. Since the beginning of record-keeping for such things, the temperature has never been colder than 10 degrees in January in Houston.[1] This year, the coldest recorded temperature in January was 33.8 degrees, and that happened twice. All told, we’ve only spent 44 hours this year to date below 40 degrees. In 2007, the mercury dropped below 40 degrees for a grand total of about 120 hours, with a minimum recorded temperature of 32. We haven’t had a single hour below freezing since early March of 2002.[2] That winter design condition of 20 degrees just did not seem right to the Houstonians in the room.

With a few minutes of pouring through design guides, we found that the appropriate winter design temperature for Houston as established by ASHRAE is either 29 degrees or 27 degrees, depending on the site location in the city. Even those values seemed low to us, but nevertheless far more reasonable than 20 degrees. Somewhere along the way, someone had padded an established standard with a significant “factor of comfort”.

So why does this even matter? The capacity of the HVAC equipment is designed in part to meet these conditions. We were over-designing for the winter, and doing so would cost us energy and money. We might not have ever uncovered this had we not questioned the design team’s assumptions.

With that issue resolved, we examined several other assumptions, and over the course of the meeting developed a series of proposed changes – most of which were adopted – that saved up-front equipment costs while slashing the building’s anticipated energy consumption by 15-20%. We weren’t sacrificing the functionality of the building – we simply were correcting a previously undetected over-design. Who knows how many we didn’t catch?!

A challenge for campus sustainability professionals is that we participate in so many different kinds of conversations with such a broad range of people that we can’t be experts in everything. There are going to be moments – perhaps many – when we are the least experienced people in the room. Bringing the conversation to a fundamental level enables us to partially overcome the experience gap, to start to play to our strengths, and to make constructive comments. This is such a young profession that we’re all climbing the learning curve together. I’d be interested to know if others have similar tips to share. We need all the lessons we can get!

[2] Temperature data drawn from the Bayland Park weather station, located at the corner of Hillcroft and Bissonnet in southwest Houston. Data available online at http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/cgi-bin/compliance/monops/yearly_summary.pl?cams=53

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