UNB takes lead in going green

In eliminating almost 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the same as planting four million mature trees, the University of New Brunswick’s energy management program has saved more than money; it has helped save the environment.

Committed to cutting its CO2 footprint by 30 percent come 2016, UNB Fredericton is currently on track to exceed that goal says Tim Cross, the university’s energy coordinator.

With support from the university, Energy Manager Tom Gilmore, responsible for the Central Heating Plant as well as the Energy Management Program, says it’s not a cost UNB’s stakeholders are incurring because everything has a cost avoidance built into it.

The university is spending the money up front on energy projects, but they’re seeing that money come back in energy savings through what we pay for water, steam, or just our electricity bill,” says Gilmore.

UNB is “going green” in other ways too. Besides its effective energy management program, UNB’s Fredericton campus has developed a waste diversion program, which to date has offset 1020 metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent of taking 196 cars off the road.

“We aim to do everything green – we plant trees, shrubs, we don’t use pesticide or fertilizers, green cleaning products, we recycle and we divert waste,” says Steve Hampsey, UNB’s buildings and ground operations supervisor. “Everything is available ‘green’, as they call it. Eco loco certified, green seal certified, we even use corn-oil based additives in our diesel for fuel efficiency.”

The building envelope

The current phase of UNB’s energy efficiency program focuses on updating buildings on campus to make them more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

It’s a whole-building approach to energy efficiency,” says Cross. “Example technologies that are being employed would be heat recovery, LED lighting, low-flow water fixtures, digital control systems, and innovative operations that make things work smarter.”

As sitting members of the Atlantic Universities and Colleges Sustainability Network (AUCSN), Gilmore and Cross attend meetings bi-annually to discuss opportunities available to UNB, and to seek out means of collaborating with other universities across the Maritimes.

As well, through AUCSN, UNB residences participate in annual residence energy challenges where houses compete against one another to save energy.  This is just one of the many ways universities are getting their students directly involved in efforts to ‘go green.’

With 42 university residences across the Maritimes on board – six of which are UNB residences – more than 6,000 students participated in last year’s Energy Reduction Challenge. UNB Fredericton’s Aitken House came out the winner, having reduced the most energy. Their end result was a 24 percent reduction in energy consumption

Student environment coordinators are recruited to lead these initiatives on campus.

“The energy efficiency challenge is probably the best vehicle right now,” says Cross. “The student who was involved last year was wonderful at reaching out to various residences, putting signs up, and getting everybody motivated.”

A greener future

As part of the next phase of their plan, Gilmore and Cross are looking to introduce live-metering in buildings on campus, moving beyond a set duration challenge and giving students and staff daily targets.

“We want to get the word out of actually tying the hardware to the habits of the users, and start identifying opportunities for improvement there,” says Gilmore.

“Once we have the tools we can easily display energy use, and use this information to inform people of their day-to-day habits and where we can make improvements.”

Working with a campus that is 225-years old, old technology and water leaks are a common occurrence. Gilmore says once they are all brought to modern standards, he hopes UNB will be the first university with net-zero buildings, meaning each building consumes no more water or electricity than it can generate itself.

“In short, over the last 16 years, and extending another four years, UNB has committed to just about $14-million worth of energy efficiency projects,” says Gilmore.

“The fact that we have supportive commitment from senior administration, and a forward-thinking energy management committee, we are able to strive as a leader amongst Maritime universities and go beyond the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency.”

Contributed by Bronté James, Communications and Marketing. Story made possible through UNB Associated Alumni.

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