On Tuesday, February 18, representatives from CL&P hosted an energy summit at the Nathan Hale Inn to collaborate with UConn’s energy employees as well as members from other departments and determine next steps for the University’s energy goals. The summit started off with a recap of what UConn is currently working on and what successes the University has accomplished thus far. For example, in the past three years UConn has prevented 39,370 tons of coal and 117,985 barrels of oil from being burned. Additionally, we were ranked #1 in 2013 for Sierra Club’s Cool Schools Survey. Going forward UConn plans to mitigate the impact of a growing university through behavior change in the community, retrocommissioning of old buildings, and making sure that all new buildings are as energy efficient as possible.
CL&P invited Walt Henry, a former professor at MIT and current energy consultant to share his experiences at MIT with UConn. According to Henry, an energy efficient building does not have to cost more than a standard building. “A building is like a cake,” he said “the ingredients in the cake itself are what’s most important, not the frosting and cherry.” What he means by this is that all you need to do in order to make an energy efficient building within budget is to spend your money in the right places. Instead of focusing on fancy extras that may seem important, you should focus on using the right materials in the right places. For example, instead of spending money on limestone, use cast stone. It is less expensive and works just as well. You should however invest the money on good spray foam insulation and windows since air tight walls increase efficiency.
Henry ended his presentation with some key take-aways that may help UConn when making the designs for new buildings. For one thing, architects and engineers must collaborate so that the structure of the building and the internals work together. Also it is important to take intelligent risks, knowing what could possibly go wrong, but not being afraid to be a leader in sustainable building. Finally, Henry noted his opinion on how LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-a current ranking system for many green buildings) should not drive the design of a new building. The planners should make the best building they can and then use LEED as a yardstick. This way, they have the chance to be innovative and possibly even make a better building than LEED calls for.
Going forward, UConn still has many things to consider and there is always room for improvement. However, meetings like this increase collaboration among UConn departments, our partner CL&P, and other universities to help turn the best ideas into reality one step at a time.