UConn 2000 Energy Savings Recognized
By Richard Veilleux
The beautiful new buildings are celebrated with dedication ceremonies. Top faculty and students are lured to Storrs by the success of UConn 2000. And UConn's endowment, which has experienced huge growth, due in part to a UConn 2000 matching gift program, is hailed as a fund for excellence.
But UConn 2000 pays other dividends, too, out of the public eye. Dividends that, since the UConn 2000 program was signed into law in 1995, have saved the University, its students, and state taxpayers millions of dollars, including more than $24 million in energy costs alone.
"During the construction and renovations we've completed there have been a number of energy-saving items installed that save money over time," says Larry Schilling, university architect.
Still other controls and improvements have allowed the University to curtail water use, with the average daily water demand falling from more than 1.6 million gallons a day in 1989 to less than 1.3 million gallons in 2001, Schilling says.
The energy savings, more commonly known as "cost avoidance" says Schilling, has been so dramatic that, on Feb. 20, the Energy Conservation Management Board awarded University President Philip E. Austin the 2001 Energy Conservation Award, commending UConn staff for "innovation in energy-efficiency initiatives." The award was presented during Conservation Day at the state capitol.
Some of that savings is returned to UConn through rebate checks from Connecticut Natural Gas and Connecticut Light and Power. That money is then leveraged to create additional savings.
"One example of CL&P's history of working together with UConn is best exemplified by our multiple energy-conscious construction programs that are reducing capital and operating costs by developing energy-saving upgrades in new UConn buildings, and major renovations," says Tony DeFilippis, director of conservation and load management at CL&P. "These incentives are estimated to save the University millions of kilowatt hours of energy during their lifetime."
Schilling says those upgrades include the installation of energy management systems that control the heating and cooling of buildings, depending on the time of day. Other "smart" systems adjust temperature controls when they sense people are occupying the space. And motion sensors turn lights on and off automatically according to whether or not a room is being used.
"You have to be very aggressive with energy," Schilling says, adding that, "after people, energy is the most expensive item faced by an institution of this size."
Further significant cost savings - to the tune of millions of dollars - have been achieved at the University by self-insuring the UConn 2000 construction jobs.
Through the Owner's Controlled Insurance Program, UConn maintains insurance to protect the University should a serious accident occur on a construction site. Even with that cost, however, UConn saves as much as one or two percent of the construction cost by self-insuring the contractors assigned to major building projects. The savings are then reinvested in each project, often allowing planners to include amenities that had earlier been cut due to cost.
Alternatively, the energy cost avoidance programs allow officials to divert operating budget money that had been earmarked for energy costs to more important academic or student-oriented programs.
The same holds true for water conservation, Schilling says, noting that water entering the UConn system must be pumped, treated, circulated and returned to the treatment plant. Less water use means less energy is consumed delivering the product to the more than 500 buildings on campus.
And, Schilling says, as more buildings are dedicated, bringing more students, faculty, and donors to Storrs, the savings have only one way to go: up.