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Campus ahead of goals in reducing energy consumption

Gov. Pat Quinn announces his appointment of the Admissions Review Commission at a news conference June 10.
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Terry Ruprecht, director of energy conservation at Facilities and Services, is shown with a power meter. Replacing outdated building systems with more energy efficient equipment and promoting personal and unit-level responsibility for conservation helped reduce energy consumption on campus by more than 9 percent during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, and is expected to save about $5 million in energy costs.

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Inside Illinois, 6/18/09 | Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor | 217-244-1072;

The Urbana campus is ahead of schedule in meeting Chancellor Richard Herman’s goal of reducing energy consumption by 10 percent by Fiscal Year 2010.

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For the first 10 months of the current fiscal year (FY09), energy consumption was down by 9.6 percent over last fiscal year. As a result, the campus expects to save about $5 million in energy costs.

Initiatives such as the Energy Liaison Program that heighten awareness about energy usage and promote personal responsibility for containing costs and reducing consumption, and lighting and building system retrocommissioning programs – along with decreases in natural gas prices – have contributed to a better bottom line.

“We’re heading toward a 10 percent reduction this year, and I don’t think we could have done that without the campus units getting on board,” said Terry Ruprecht, director of energy conservation at Facilities and Services. “Folks out there are doing whatever small things they can do. It really is one of those nifty things where a whole bunch of people are putting their shoulders to the wheel and making it work.”

The savings will be used to pay down the multimillion-dollar deficit that the campus accrued over the past several years as energy costs soared. The second priority will be funding conservation initiatives.

Crews from F&S are almost finished with the first phase of the Lighting Retrofit Project, which entails replacing more than 80,000 outdated fixtures and ballasts in the 44 buildings that use the most energy. About two dozen buildings were retrofitted during the project’s first phase, and nine more buildings – including Chemistry Annex, Roger Adams Lab, Freer Hall and the Medical Sciences building – will be retrofitted during the second phase, which is expected to begin July 1 and run through December.

The $4.2 million project was funded in part by a $1.2 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and by the Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment paid by students. The campus has applied for additional funding of $800,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. When completed, the Lighting Retrofit project is expected to save about $1 million – or 12.8 million kilowatt hours – annually, based on 12-hour days.

During the summer, 250 occupancy sensors, which turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied for 30 minutes, are being installed in many classrooms. The sensors can reduce electricity usage by 30-50 percent, but they are costly to install in expansive rooms that have multiple circuits and switches, so “you have to be fairly judicious about where you decide to put them,” Ruprecht said.

Thus far, sensors have been installed in classrooms in the Foreign Languages Building, Loomis Lab and the Armory, and seven more buildings are slated to receive them.

“We’re focusing on classrooms for right now because the $50,000 for the project came from the Student Sustainability Committee, and they really wanted to focus on the buildings where students would be most affected,” said Eva Sweeney, F&S engineering specialist. “It’s a pretty modest start, but we’re hoping that if the project is successful we’ll be able to go much more widespread with it.” However, additional funding will need to be found in order to do that, Sweeney said.

A portion of the project costs will be refunded to the campus through a rebate program administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

F&S is continuing its Retrocommissioning Project, replacing and repairing HVAC and other building systems to improve energy efficiency. Programmable controls and occupancy sensors have been installed in older buildings such as Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, or “tweaked” in newer buildings that already had the controls, to conserve energy during all hours of operation. Since the Retrocommissioning Project began, work in 12 buildings – including the National Soybean Research Center, Turner Hall and the ACES Library – has been completed or is under way, reducing energy costs by an average of 27 percent per building. The improvements are expected to save about $1.8 million annually.

The number of service requests being made to the Temperature Control Shop regarding complaints about areas being too hot or too cold – as well as the number of call-backs about those problems – have decreased, according to Rob Fritz, management engineer in the building maintenance division of F&S, who oversees the shop. In part, this is due to the number of temperature control mechanics having been increased from 12 to 15 over the past four years, Fritz said. Coupled with the retrocommissioning process, the additional manpower enabled his staff members to begin making the necessary repairs and replacements that are part of the burgeoning backlog of deferred maintenance projects, rather than providing temporary fixes before moving on to the next “hot” or “cold” call.

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