UAA gets a B- in sustainability

Last year Chancellor Brian Rogers of UAF challenged Chancellor Ulmer to a sustainability contest based on the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s College Sustainability Report. When the challenge was made UAF had a grade of “C-“, UAA had a “C+”. This year UAF falls a full letter grade short of UAA’s “B-.”

Among 332 colleges surveyed UAA ranked 133rd with a B-. The study ranks colleges in nine categories, then averages out these rankings for a final letter grade. Among these categories, UAA scored highest in Administration and lowest in Green Building and Investment Priorities.

The “A” UAA received in Administration is largely due to the first ever Sustainability Director hired this year named Paula Williams.

Williams filled out the survey from the Sustainable Endowments Institute with the help of facilities and departments around UAA.

“In past years not filling out the survey completely partially led to low grades,” Williams said, “We have been improving each year and hopefully next year we will get an even higher grade.”

In UAA’s Energy Policy, Chancellor Fran Ulmer writes, “UAA is committed to responsible energy and resource management as part of an overall environmental strategy.”

The report states that UAA is committed to minimizing energy use and cost. The University spends four to five million dollars a year on electricity and natural gas. Since 1999, UAA’s energy consumption has been growing. In 2005 UAA doubled the Energy Information Agency’s reported average site energy intensity of an educational building. However, after adjustment for the weather, UAA was below average for energy consumption.

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Since 2005, UAA’s Natural Gas Usage has risen by nearly 400,000 CCF (100 Cubic Feet). The addition of student housing in the survey by HGA Architects and Engineers is responsible for this increase.

According to Williams, one of the main issues the Office of Sustainability is dealing with is workgroups. The Sustainable Steering committee tasked the Office of Sustainability with creating different groups that can measure and report on different issues around campus. These workgroups currently deal with carpooling, energy saving and recycling.

“This is one thing that is a struggle,” Williams said. “There are no students getting involved.”

Another struggle UAA has when dealing with sustainability is getting energy from renewable resources.

“There is no place at the University for wind energy and there is no bio-mass to burn for energy,” Williams said. “We are in the clutches of the state and municipality.”

Other efforts UAA is making to conserve energy include replacing all streetlights with LED bulbs in 2008. Instead of 300-watt bulbs, all the streetlights at UAA are now only 104 watts, an energy savings of 65 percent.

Where UAA fell short, in Green Buildings, the Integrated Science Building is making up for. The new building is UAA’s greenest building. During construction, asphalt from the old parking lot was used for fill material on site.