What is UNM doing to reduce its carbon footprint?
“We do the right thing — not the easy thing,” states UNM Physical Plant Department’s core values, which also include a commitment to continuous improvement and to “finding solutions that allow everyone to win.”
In an effort to reduce UNM’s energy costs, which “are in the millions and extremely difficult to calculate,” the PPD is implementing new programs across campus to lower energy costs and reduce the University’s carbon footprint.
The PPD’s mission is to is to “consistently deliver effective programs and efficient facility services based on sustainable and collaborative outcomes aligned with the University of New Mexico’s core mission,” according to the department’s .
PPD is trying to make UNM a greener campus by constructing and maintaining energy efficient buildings. The Utilities Division and Engineering & Energy Services, both divisions of PPD, work to improve energy usage and efficiency in utility equipment and buildings.
“UNM is reducing its carbon footprint primarily through improving the efficiency of our utilities distribution system and the energy usage in our buildings,” said UNM Sustainability Manager Mary Clark.
Required by an executive order put in place in 2006 by then-Gov. Bill Richardson, all new buildings constructed on campus must be built to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard of Silver or higher.
Lobo Energy, Inc. works with PPD Engineering and Energy Services to make existing buildings more energy efficient with state of the art and high tech building control systems.
The South Lot Lighting project, which started as a safety project, ended up cutting energy costs by implementing more efficient lighting fixtures.
“By upgrading existing and adding new fixtures and controls we were able deliver an even distribution of light in whole parking lot,” said Angel Becerra, university facilities engineer for PPD. “We added 29 additional fixtures, because we went with LED and are able to dim fixtures, we still reduced the total amount of energy used by half.”
In 2015, UNM West campus installed a system, bringing the total number of panel systems across the University properties to six. The project cost $465,000 and is now generating approximately 70 percent of the building’s electricity. The new panels are expected to save the University more than $24,000 annually in electricity costs.
Clark added that there will soon be a new solar array installed at Valencia Campus.
The Green Fund was established to pay for sustainability projects and to date has funded the Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in the Yale and Cornell parking structure, installation of Energy Miser devices on soft drink machines and solar safety lighting at the Yale bus stop.
“These standalone photovoltaic systems provide safety lighting in needed areas, and using a solar power solution means we don’t need to tap off the existing power,” said Becerra. “If this solution proves to be successful all new shuttle stops and existing can be converted to solar and that would decrease the environmental impact and the carbon footprint on campus.”
The EV charging stations can serve two electric vehicles at once, however Clark said they are “poorly used” and there is currently no data to show how they have helped cut energy costs.
In February, PPD partnered for a second time with Bernalillo County and the North Campus Neighborhood Association and broke ground on an underground water pipeline that will span 4,700 feet from the Lomas Chilled Water Plant to the UNM North Golf Course.
Potentially, the half a million dollar project could save up to 14 million gallons of water per year by capturing “blow-down” water, which is usually “dumped down the drain,” from the Lomas Plant and move it to a pond at the Golf Course where it will be used to irrigate the landscape.
UNM Recycling Services, a “proactive service organization” and division of PPD, diverts approximately 1,000 tons of waste from the landfill each year by collecting mixed paper, cardboard, aluminum cans and plastic campus, according to Mary Clark, Sustainability Manager for UNM.
“Recycling Services does not have enough staff to pick up bins in every room and every building,” Clark said when the Daily Lobo asked why there were not recycling bins in all classrooms across campus, which would make it easier for students to participate in recycling efforts.
“Recycling is a participatory activity – if you want to recycle, you need to find the nearest recycling bin,” she said.
In order to engage with students, PPD is using social media to “raise the campus community’s awareness of sustainability, environmental issues, and best sustainable practices,” Clark said.
Celia Raney is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Celia_Raney.