Green Remediation

May 6, 2010

UMass will be hosting an international conference that will take place on June 15-17 in the university’s Campus Center.  “Green Remediation: Environment, Energy, Economics“.  The conference will be co-hosted by The Environmental Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst, U.S. EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, US EPA New England and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

The conference will address the full range of environmental, energy and economic aspects of green and sustainable remediation, taking into account the energy requirements of treatment systems, air emissions, water use requirements and impacts on water resources, land and ecosystem use and impacts, energy use and renewables, material consumption, reuse, and waste generation.

The conference will provide a forum for scientists, regulators, managers, and other stakeholders from around the globe to interact and share new knowledge in both basic and applied research in green and sustainable remediation. Topics of interest include but are not limited to the following:

● Sustainable Remediation Technologies ● Green Cleanups (e.g., low impact design, clean construction) ● Greening Brownfields ● Sustainable Site Redevelopment ● Life Cycle Analysis ● Renewable Energy Projects on Contaminated Sites ● Ecological Revitalization ● Green Nanotechnology for Site Remediation ● Water/Energy Use and Efficiency ● Process and Site Optimization ● Sustainable Reuse ● Measurement and Assessment Techniques ● Best Management Practices ● Decision Support Tools ● Cost and Performance Case Studies ● Global Perspectives on Sustainable Remediation ● Policy and Regulatory Issues

The University Gallery at the Fine Arts Center at UMass will finally be closing its doors on Sunday, May 9 on the Greening the Valley: Sustainable Architecture in the Pioneer Valley art exhibit.  The gallery opened on Thursday, February 11 and was designed to deepen the public’s understanding and use of “green” design, while demonstrating that the key elements of sustainability can be accessible to all.

Sustainability has become an accepted concept that applies to people from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds.  It requires broad systemic thinking around critical economic, social, as well as environmental issues.  The exhibition addressed these issues, providing a springboard for thought-provoking questions, discussions, and commentaries.  The specific focus was on the Pioneer Valley and will highlight the region and its forward-looking communities.

The Pioneer Valley is rich in sustainable buildings that mirror national green trends in architecture and design.  Through models, photographs, and virtual tours, the exhibition united diverse works from large-scale science buildings to private residences, low-income housing, and intimate gardens of natural inspiration – all of which illustrates the many ways that green design can help solve our environmental crisis.  Greening the Valley included works by nationally and internationally renowned figures such as Michael Singer, Sigrid Miller Pollin and Charles Rose, as well as prominent architects from the Pioneer Valley region such as Coldham & Hartman, Kuhn Riddle, Austin Design, Juster Pope Frazier, Dietz & Co., and landscape architects such as Frank Sleegers of UMass.  The goal of the exhibition was to bring together examples of green design, highlight their aesthetic and sustainable attributes, and impress upon its audience the visual and material accessibility of those features.

The exhibition was guest-curated by architectural historian Margaret Birney Vickery, Ph.D.

Students have many opportunities to reduce their impact on the environment and help UMass become more sustainable.  These opportunities present themselves as relatively small lifestyle changes on an individual basis whether it be recycling more, using less water, or reducing electricity consumption.  On an individual level they may seem small, but when taken collectively as a student body, the overall positive impact is quite significant. Check out the following easy ways to reduce your impact and help the campus become more sustainable:

Lighting:  Shut the lights off when they are not in use or when you leave a room.  Use compact  fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).  They use 75% less electricity than the regular incandescent light bulbs.  Whenever possible, use natural lighting whenever possible instead of using electric lighting.

Computers:  Let your computer sleep – enable energy settings.  Shut down computer on nights, weekends, and anytime you leave for longer than an hour.  Turn off monitor when not using for longer than 5-15 minutes.  Screen savers don’t save energy, they waste it!  Turn off server monitors.  Look into innovative ideas for computer lab energy savings.

Appliances:  Use a “smart” power strip to automatically turn off equipment at the end of the day.  Phantom loads are the energy that is consumed by electronics and other devices even when they are not in use.  Even when electronics are off, they are still consuming electricity.  To avoid this, try to unplug electronics when you are not using them.

Paper Reduction:  Buy duplex printers or install a duplex option for existing printers.  To cut your paper use 90% or more: Duplex print, reuse paper for office use and drafts, avoid printing emails, use and offer electronic (paperless) options when possible, decrease your default margins from 1.25 inches to 0.75 inches, buy recycled paper with high post-consumer content.  Buy recycled toner cartridges, InkSolutions in Amherst picks up and delivers recycled cartridges to UMass.  Use inkjet printers for daily use (as laser printers use 5 times more energy than inkjets).

Water Conservation:  Take shorter showers and try shutting the water off while you lather up.  Calculate how much water you use on a regular basis.  While you are at the sink brushing your teeth, shaving or just admiring yourself in the mirror, make sure the faucet is off when you are not using the water.  When you find a leaky faucet or shower head in your bathroom, don’t just ignore it, tell your RA about it so that it can be fixed.  Instead of buying bottled water, buy a water bottle that you can use for years to come.  This will allow you to take only as much water as you want and will decrease the amount of plastic needed for all those water bottles.  Some great reusable water bottles that are out there are Klean, Kanteen, Nalgene and Sigg.  To go along with a bland new reusable water bottle, you can purchase a water filtering pitcher for you dorm room.  This will allow you to take water right from the tap to fill up your water bottles with.  This also will protect against some things that might not belong in the tap water.

Transportation:  Hop on a PVTA bus.  They can take you just about anywhere in the Pioneer Valley.  Ride a bike.  By far the fastest way to get around campus and even into Amherst center is on a bike.  No traffic (except pedestrians) and you get to pick your own route.  If you are driving somewhere that the PVTA buses don’t go and might be too far for a bicycle, make sure to carpool whenever possible.  When you are using your car, combine a trip out with some short errands.  This way you only have to use your car once.  Take a walk! Amherst is beautiful in every season, so if you are heading to a place nearby, walk instead of driving.

Recycling:  Recycle!  If you are having trouble figuring out what stuff you can recycle in which of the three different colored barrels that are located throughout the dorms, check out the Office of Waste Management for a breakdown of what can be recycled in which barrel.  Doing a little can do a lot of good:  Making an aluminum can from scratch takes 25 times more energy than from recycled cans, recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt CFL burning about 14 hours.  It’s not just aluminum cans and newspapers that can be recycled.  There is a whole list of odd items that can be recycled just by calling Waste Management and having them pick up the item.  Donating is recycling.  When you purge your closet of all the clothes you do not wear anymore, don’t throw them out, but donate them.  There is a Salvation Army on Route 9 near the Hampshire Mall.

Buying Green:  Right in our very own Campus Center U-Store there are a variety of ‘green’ options to choose from.  Such items include compact fluorescent light bulbs, water filter pitchers, replacement filters, power strips, etc.  When shopping for new equipment, be sure to choose Energy Star equipment for computers, copiers, printers, and all appliances. Smart computer purchasing choices: Flat screen monitors use 1/3 the energy of conventional monitors, laptops use 1/4 the energy of desktops, inkjet printers use 1/5 the energy of laser printers, a 15” monitor uses half the energy of a 17” monitor.

Saving Wasted Energy

May 3, 2010

Interesting article published in The Massachusetts Daily Collegian today about the amount of energy college students waste on a day-to-day basis. The article talks about the number one dilemma on college campuses when it comes to energy conservation, which is that students don’t have to pay for the energy they use, therefore there is no incentive for them to reduce their carbon footprint.  

Most students don’t really think about the amount of energy they are wasting. The appliances they use, the lights and computers that are left on all day and long showers they take, can all be changed for a quick fix. The energy it takes to power light bulbs, appliances and electronics use up all three of the biggest CO2 generators: coal, natural gas and oil. All of these things account for one-third of carbon dioxide production in industrialized nations.

Many students are also unaware of what is called “vampire”, or phantom, appliances. These are electronics, adapters and appliances with remote controls, like televisions, DVD players and game consoles, which actually always remain on, and continue to suck in energy even when they are switched off. A simple solution to this is plugging all appliances into a power strip and turning it off whenever none of them are in use.

One of the biggest things a student can do is not leave things on. Shutting down and shutting off is really important. Even hibernate brings energy intake down to approximately 3% of what it would be if it was on. Changing a light bulb to a more energy-efficient one, like a compact florescent light bulb, can help reduce CO2 emissions. Other tips include driving less, recycling more, washing clothes in warm or cold water and using the short cycle on all appliances. Making only these alterations in everyday life can save up to 3,050 pounds of CO2 a year.

A new state-of-the-art research facility, called the “Health & Wellness Center,” is currently being built in Chenoweth Hall (annex) for the College of Natural Resources and the Environment at UMass. 

The project will provide new lab space for research in the fields of food processing, additives and preservatives involving chemistry, microbiology and biology.

Renovations of lab areas on the second floor of the building are underway.  Work also includes exterior utility upgrades and construction in first floor mechanical rooms.  The entire project involves architectural renovations, structural reinforcements, and plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades.

Some construction noise is unavoidable during regular working hours (7AM – 4PM, M-F), but the contractor will make every effort to minimize disturbances and accommodate class schedules.

Work is expected to be substantially complete by the end of November 2010.

The Lederle Graduate Research Center will be undergoing several major renovation, construction and hazardous material remediation projects.  Renovation ideas have been released and include:

Lederle Graduate Research Center (LGRC) Lowrise Electrical Upgrade:  This project is currently underway and involves increasing electrical capacity for the entire Lowrise section of the LGRC, including the library area, and includes some asbestos abatement.  Some localized electrical service interruptions should be expected.  The project is scheduled to be completed in February, 2011.

LGRC Elevator Replacement:  New elevators will be installed, one at a time, in both the Lowrise and Tower sections beginning the week of March 7.  The project is scheduled for completion in March, 2011.

Acid Neutralization:  This is a project to upgrade/replace the current system and method for handling laboratory waste.  Construction is to take place primarily in Tower A through mid-June of this year.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Renovations:  Using grants provided by the NIH, a renovation of  laboratories in Tower C is in order from June through November of this year, and in Towers A and B from November of this year through November of 2011.

Hazardous material (HAZMAT) Remediation:  Hazardous material will be remediated or removed throughout the Lowrise and Tower A from June through August of this year.

Mechanical, Electrical and Plumping (MEP) Upgrades:  Mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades will be made throughout the LGRC complex beginning in July and finishing in September of 2011.

Exhaust Fan Replacement:  Exhaust fans will be replaced in Tower A from July until September of 2011.

New UMass Police Station

April 26, 2010

This week, construction begins on the exterior walls and elevator superstructure of the new UMass police station.  The $12.5 million dollar structure will serve as the new home for the 75-member department.  The complex is designed to operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week, providing all patrol, investigation, specialized and emergency response, as well as crime prevention and educational services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus.

The University of Massachusetts Facilities and Campus Planning Department has been working with the University Emergency Management and Business Continuity Department to locate and construct a new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) within the new police station structure.  The EOC function is to provide a central point of communication and a command center during a crisis or natural disaster affecting the campus. 

As far as the green initiative behind the new design, the building will be the first LEED certified building on the campus of UMass.  The project is currently targeting LEED gold.

UMass will be holding an Environmental Activism panel discussion tomorrow, April 26, in the Honors Lounge, Commonwealth College in Goodell.  The discussion will take place at 3:30 PM-5:00 PM and will be followed by a reception from 5:00 PM-6:00 PM.

Students will have a chance to hear from three panelists working to bring about environmental change in different ways, in different fields, and at different points in their careers.  One panelists is a UMass alum: an environmental lawyer who recently founded a non-profit organization in New York City to encourage high school students of color to enter environmental fields.  Two panelists have had long and distinguished careers and are visiting speakers this semester: one is a research scientist and educator based in Washington state who has spent two decades working to preserve forests canopies around the world and one is a writer and local farming activist based in northern New Mexico.  The work and careers of all three panelists demonstrate that environmental activism in its many forms is closely linked to issues of sustainability and social justice.  Students will have ample time to ask questions following the panel discussion and meet with the panelists at the reception to follow the event.

Building Energy Use

April 25, 2010

I wanted to find out more information regarding the amount of energy used by each building on the campus of UMass.  I already spoke with Josh Stoffel and Jim Hunt to discuss the environmentally friendly buildings on campus.  Now I wanted to find out the worst environmentally sound buildings on campus.  In order to discover such information, I has to contact Jason Burbank, Campus Energy Engineer at UMass.  He was able to compile an entire spreadsheet about the information I desired.  On the spreadsheet he summarized a compilation each and every building’s energy use the fiscal year 09, ending on July 1, 2009.  Total steam is in pounds, electric is in kwh, and the calculation for
BTU/SF-year is based on fuel used by our heating plant at around 80% overall efficiency.

The highest energy budget numbers come from buildings which use steam powered chillers for cooling.  These use an awful lot of steam, but do have the advantage that they allow us to generate more electricity with our plant steam turbines and to avoid electrical demand costs.  Still the carbon footprint is not good. 

Next come the science buildings, due the heating and cooling costs of all their ventilation air.  Dining commons can also have very large ventilation rates and resulting energy use. 

By way of comparison, the Department of Energy provides guidelines (“Target Finder”) for building energy budgets in these terms, average high schools in this area would use around 80,000 BTU/SF-yr and the best of them around 40,000.  For office buildings with a lot of equipment the average is around 120,000 with the best below 56,000. 

All numbers should have some sanity checks, and particularly steam meters would need to be cross checked or calibrated before any of these numbers are taken to the bank, but with a few exceptions they are good to show trends.  Known steam meter problems existed at Computer Science (CSC), Crabtree and Leach (reading high).  These are now corrected. 

Based on this, the 10 worst buildings at UMass, a combination of overall high use or excessive use for their building type, are:

-Berkshire DC (steam chiller only, lighting and ventilation controls)

-Hampshire DC  (steam chiller only, inefficient HVAC systems)

-Integrated Sciences Building (needs improved operation of existing systems)

-Conte Polymer Research Center (large lab ventilation requirements with no heat recovery or good unoccupied controls)

-Elab 2 (CSC2) same situation as Conte

-Worcester DC  (unoccupied ventilation rate is grossly excessive)

-Recreation Center (needs scheduling of HVAC and lighting, shutdown of equipment when not in use, optimizing heating and cooling controls, uses twice the energy of our other gyms with pools)

-Isenberg School of Management (excessive use for office/classroom building)

-Knowles (excessive HVAC use for the present building use)

-Whitmore (inefficient heating system)   

Each building’s energy use is reported on the Physical Plant web page.

Jim Cahill, Director of Facilities Planning for UMass, sent out an email today to the UMass community regarding the Southwest Concourse project as a follow-up to the email sent by Jim Hunt yesterday. It reads:

I am writing as a follow-up to the communication sent by email to the Southwest Residential community yesterday regarding the Southwest Concourse project, and in response to several inquires about this project. It is regrettable that our communication process in regard to this project was not up to our standards that were established to communicate project impacts to all stakeholders. I hope this additional detail will help you understand the importance of this complicated project and the steps we have taken to minimize interruptions.

The Southwest Concourse project replaced the underground infrastructure last summer and the final phase to replace the concourse will be completed between now and next Fall. This is a necessary project because both the infrastructure under the concourse and the concourse surface has exceeded their useful lives and are beyond repair. The result will be more reliable and efficient utility service, and an improved quality of life from enhanced landscaping features. The project has been phased to consolidate the majority of work during the 2009 and 2010 summer recesses. Unfortunately, with a project of this size and given its location, it is impossible to prevent all disruptions to the campus community so our approach has been to take steps to limit them.

The coordination with the campus community has been on-going since summer 2009. We have involved many groups in the planning and design of this project, including Housing, Physical Plant, Athletics, Conference Services, Campus Police, Environmental Health & Safety, Auxiliary Services, Student Activities and the Southwest Student Government Association. The participation of these groups helped develop the design and schedule for the project including several good suggestions for how to work around scheduled activities.

Please refer to the Facilities Planning web site which outlines the work from now through April 30, 2010. Please note that in order to minimize disruption during the end of the semester and finals, no construction activity will take place from May 3 through May 16. However, between now and April 30, you can expect to have construction activity within the zones identified on the map at our web site. Please know that we must begin the work now in the limited areas so that we can then take over the entire concourse subsequent to commencement and be able to reopen the concourse for the fall semester. We will continue to work with the contractor to find ways to minimize the impacts to your physical environment between now and the end of the semester.