The University of Michigan is balancing growth in its campus population and facilities with an overarching goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as per its recently released
Annual Sustainability Report
Total greenhouse gas emissions for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011 climbed by 7.5% as compared to the 2010 fiscal year, an increase significantly attributed to the ramping up of the new C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital and the opening of the North Campus Research Complex last January, according to Terry Alexander, executive director of the U-M Office of Campus Sustainability
By the end of fiscal 2012, U-M is looking at having over 1,000 people working at the North Campus Research Complex, Alexander says.
"Our goals just look at total numbers, but if you look at it on a per square-foot basis and per person basis, our energy use has actually reduced by about 21% since 2004," says Alexander. "That's a good trend, but we continue to grow and we're adding more people, we're adding more building space, so that number is going to continually change as we move forward."
The year's highlights include completion of the Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment, a plan of long-term goals in the realms of climate action, waste reduction, healthy environments, and community awareness. Action items include, for example, reducing greenhouse emissions created both onsite and through purchased electricity by 25% and cutting waste tonnage sent for disposal 40% by 2025.
Other successes were achieved by the university's Planet Blue
operations teams, which implement energy-saving measures in buildings and train occupants on proper usage of those systems. The teams scoured 71 buildings, resulting in an 8% less energy usage and $3.8 million in cost savings over the year.
The university also reports cleaner-running buses and increased ridership. 6.9 million bus rides were taken in fiscal 2011, up from 6.5 million over 2010. Two new diesel electric hybrid buses are on the road, with another two on the verge of being deployed. Three more are on order, to bring the total to seven such hybrid buses in circulation by the end of 2012, Alexander says.
And now the athletic campus and other venues are under the green microscope for 2012. University officials are working with a group of student athletes interested in incorporating more sustainable features into campus athletic events. The new law school building and women's and children's hospitals are under review for LEED certification. And officials are also in the final stages of negotiating with DTE Energy for solar panel arrays for the engineering campus and the North Campus Research Complex, says Alexander.
Already underway is the Planet Blue Ambassador program, in which students and staff members attend class together and then raise community awareness of energy conservation issues. "We hope by a certain time we'll have a couple of ambassadors in every building on campus so it can be our outreach effort on campus," Alexander notes.
Sources: Terry Alexander, executive director, U-M Office of Campus Sustainability; U-M Annual Sustainability Report, 2011
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar