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May 31, 2007

Pitt tallies its pollution cuts, energy use savings

Over the past decade Pitt has saved an estimated $21.2 million in reduced energy consumption by “going green.”

That was one the highlights of a presentation by Facilities Management at this month’s Faculty Assembly meeting.

According to Joseph Fink, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, Pitt’s green initiatives fall into a handful of categories: energy conservation; sustainable design and construction; pollution and emissions reduction; recycling, and the greening of the campus. Fink was reprising a PowerPoint presentation that he has given to a number of standing University Senate committees, including the plant utilization and planning committee, which is looking into Pitt’s sustainability efforts. (See April 19 University Times.)

Energy conservation

Pitt’s antiquated energy management system, dating back to 1975, was replaced in 1986 with a Trane Tracer system that provided start/stop control but very limited direct digital control (DDC), Fink said.

(DDC applies microprocessor technology to building environmental heating and cooling controls with a wide range of variables.)

In 2000, Pitt hired consultants Wiley & Wilson to develop an energy master plan that included an energy audit of 39 buildings. “They recommended improvements in campus utility infrastructure, building systems upgrades and energy conservation projects,” Fink said. For example, at the consultants’ recommendation, Pitt invested $6 million in significant upgrades to the lower-campus chilled water system. “To date, our cumulative savings from this investment are estimated at $4.4 million,” Fink said. The upgrades are expected to save 5.2 million kilowatt hours of electrical consumption, or some $290,000 in per year.

“In 2000, the Tracer system was replaced with an Automated Logic system and 19 buildings were converted to DDC control. In 2001, 10 more buildings were converted,” he said. “Starting and stopping campus fan systems on an automated schedule saves over $500,000 per year.”

In addition, a complex electrical metering system has been installed in 51 buildings. This allows monitoring of an individual building’s electrical use; instant identification of problem locations; improved cost distribution capabilities; troubleshooting of power-quality issues, and monitoring of operations during normal and outage situations.

Utilities now consume 42 percent ($19 million) of the Facilities Management operating budget compared to 37 percent 10 years ago, Fink said.

“Pitt’s electrical costs are based on both energy consumption and peak demand. Peak demand can be limited by intelligent operation,” such as not starting multiple chillers at the same time and installing reduced voltage starters on chillers, Fink noted.

Other energy savers, he said, include installing in most common areas occupancy sensors that shut off lights when they’re not needed; upgrading lighting fixtures to be more energy efficient; promoting the “computer to sleep program,” which reduces an estimated 1,100 kilowatt hours per computer per year; converting Posvar Hall and the Barco Law Building from constant-volume to variable-volume air systems, which apportion the amount of air as determined by the needs of individual rooms or spaces, saving about $135,000 in annual energy costs; replacing failed or inefficient steam traps, which are automatic valves that release condensed steam while preventing the loss of live steam (saving approximately $165,000 in steam costs per year), and upgrading 71 elevators, which provides significant energy savings, Fink said.

Other examples of energy conservation projects include:

• Retrofitting the ventilation system in the Chevron Science Center, which cut steam usage by 64 percent between January 2005 and January 2006.

• Overhauling the Posvar Hall chilled water plant for an annual estimated savings of $165,000.

• Modifying the HVAC systems in Sennott Square, for a net annual energy savings of approximately $95,000.

Sustainable design and construction

For all of Pitt’s newer buildings, such as the Biomedical Science Tower 3 and Panther Hall, sustainable design and construction standards have been employed, Fink said.

Those standards include electronic ballasts and fixtures; non-incandescent lighting unless required for research; premium efficiency motors; low-temperature transformers; occupancy sensors; direct digital controls that are linked to the campus energy management system for all mechanical systems; energy efficient control schemes; carpet installation with a minimum of 25 percent recycled content, and carpet adhesives that contain no volatile organic compounds.

Pollution/emissions reduction

The most significant initiative in this area, Fink said, is the gradual conversion from the coal-burning Bellefield Boiler Plant to the Carrillo Steam Plant near Trees Hall.

Fink said Pitt did an analysis of the steam production and fuel consumption that evaluated potential greenhouse gas reductions due to the transfer of steam production from the Bellefield plant to the Carrillo facility. That analysis revealed a projected 46 percent reduction, or 19,000 metric tons annually, in carbon dioxide emissions.

“By upgrading and replacing aging chillers, the University also has made significant progress in reducing our inventory of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants,” Fink said. “Of the University’s 14 major chillers, only three now contain CFC refrigerants.”

In addition, all transformers, capacitors and switches that used polychlorinated biphenyl —a class of cooling and insulating fluids that were banned due to their high toxicity — have been removed from campus and disposed of properly, Fink said.


According to Fink, Pitt stepped up its recycling efforts in 2005 with the goals of increasing the volume of recycled material; improving the transfer of materials to the recycler; making recycling more convenient for the University community; improving the visibility of the program, and encouraging the community to recycle more through education and advertising.

To those ends, Pitt has completed a trash removal training program for all custodians; provided dual-container custodial carts to separate trash from recyclable materials for all daylight shifts; distributed recycling receptacles in most campus common areas, and distributed information that outlines what can and cannot be recycled.

Facilities Management also has begun implementing a construction and demolition debris recycling program for mixed metals, stone and wood products, Fink noted.

Collected recyclables are placed in special bins on each building’s loading dock where they are collected weekly by a contractor who transports them to a recycling center for processing. “We do it ourselves, but we also require our vendor to separate trash from recyclables before hauling it off campus,” Fink said.

In fiscal year 2006, he said, Facilities Management efforts resulted in recycling 300 tons of mixed office paper, 203 tons of corrugated cardboard, 37 tons of scrap steel, 19 tons of aluminum/glass/plastic products, 3,100 tons of refuse, five tons of bulk aluminum, four tons of lamps and 10 tons of carpeting.

In most cases, these are record amounts for Pitt, Fink said.

Greening of the campus

The University has put effort into improving the appearance of the Pittsburgh campus in recent years, including at Sennott Square, Bouquet Gardens, the Posvar Hall plaza, the Clapp Hall entrance, the Parran Hall parklet, DeSoto Street landscaping and the Petersen Events Center green space, Fink noted.

While the benefits of literally “greening” the campus largely are esthetic, efforts such as planting ground cover on hillsides reduces maintenance requirements as well as lawn mower fuel use and emissions, he said.

Fink’s presentation can be accessed online at by clicking on the “Sustainability and Green Initiatives” link.

—Peter Hart

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