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Campuses acclimate to new green energy policy

  • June 8, 2009

Summer may be a bit warmer this year on Cal State East Bay campuses, but it will also be a lot greener. During the past year, the university began implementing energy conservation initiatives on campus to improve efficiency and lower operating costs.

Recent construction brought new equipment to several buildings, including energy-efficient boilers for heating water; energy-efficient lighting; low-flush toilet fixtures; and an upgrade to the university’s computerized energy-management systems to monitor and control heating and cooling. These new green measures will increase reliability of equipment and utilities, lower operating costs and provide greater control of temperature and air flow.

“It will definitely reduce our impact on the environment but there also are significant cost savings,” said Jim Zavagno, university planner in Facilities Management and Planning. He estimates the savings could be as much as $400,000 or $500,000 per year.

The improvements also bring CSUEB into alignment with CSU policies for heating and cooling buildings, which have been in place for several years. Cal State East Bay was not able to comply consistently until these improvements were completed, Zavagno said. The most significant change will be the temperature “comfort range,” which dictates that buildings will be heated only to 68°F during cold days and cooled to 78°F on warm days.

“In the simplest terms, the buildings are going to be a bit hotter in the summer and a little colder in the winter,” Zavagno said. The limits do not apply in areas where specialized equipment must be kept at specific temperatures, such as laboratories or server rooms, or where other settings are required by law.

Zavagno noted that many people might not notice any temperature differences, but that the department has begun to hear from uncomfortable faculty and staff members. While he recognizes that it will take time, he advises employees to take steps to adjust to the new policy, since temperatures within the comfort range will not be changed.

On Cal State East Bay’s campuses, not all buildings have air conditioning, so people may already be used to higher temperatures. To cool down during the warmer months, the facilities department recommends turning off unnecessary lights and equipment, which generate heat, and closing drapes and blinds when the sun is shining, to reduce radiant heat.

In the winter, Zavagno added, space heaters are prohibited because of the impact on building electrical systems as well as potential fire risk. The university has been previously been cited by the State Fire Marshal for these violations.

As the weather gets warmer and the comfort range policy takes effect, Zavagno said, faculty and staff should not call the facilities department if they are only a little warmer or colder than usual, and they should not attempt to adjust or tamper with thermostats. But if a thermostat is not functioning properly or the temperature seems to be outside the acceptable range, employees should call the Facilities Service Desk at 885-4444.

Whether hot or cold, the facilities department also advises people to wear layered clothing to stay comfortable as temperatures fluctuate within the comfort range and to keep windows and outside doors closed, as cold air places a burden on the heating system and warm air can tax air conditioning systems.

Cal State East Bay has made environmental responsibility and sustainability a priority, and the administration is grateful to the support of students and employees for this important commitment, Zavagno said. “This project represents another milestone in our ongoing efforts to develop and implement important energy saving measures.”

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