This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.

Power misers scour campus for ways to save energy


Powering UCLA costs more than $50 million each year, so it'sno wonder that David Johnson, director of Energy Services and Utilities, isalways looking for ways to save energy.

Hand adjusting a thermostat.That's why his energy manager, Robert Striff, is going frombuilding to building, basically asking one question: What time do you leavework?

It's a simple formula. If they can turn off the air-conditioningand ventilation a little earlier in the evening, UCLA saves money.

"It's something we've always done to a certain extent,building by building," Striff said. "But now we're taking it one stepfurther, going room by room, asking, 'When does the first person come in forthe day? When does the last one leave?'"

Striff can't turn the AC off room-by-room, but mostbuildings have several separate zones, and Striff is finding which ones can beshut off early. Without his intervention, some of the heating, ventilation andair-conditioning systems, known as HVAC, would run all night, he said. Overnight HVACshutdowns produce, on a smaller scale, the same savings UCLA reaps during the shutdownsthat occur when 20 campus buildings power down their energy-intensiveventilation systems during 13 summer Sundays, some holiday weekends and overwinter break Last year's summer shutdown saved UCLA $200,000.

"Energy costs a lot of money, and reducing those costshas always been a goal, all the more so because of the current budget crisis,"Johnson said. "The issue of sustainability has gotten many more people allover campus involved, because global warming is obviously a much broader issuethan campus costs. It's wonderful, because the more people care, the moreassistance we get."

The overnightshutdowns

Facilities Management expects shutting down HVAC overnightwill pay off big time.

"It's impossible to estimate the savings rightnow," Striff said, "but financially, it will be more than worth ourtime. Not to mention it's the right thing to do. It's not just dollars. It'sglobal warming. It's for the future. It's for our kids."

So far, overnight HVAC shutdowns have been completed inFacilities Management's main building and in Schoenberg, Franz and Knudsen halls.The effort is in progress in Macgowan Hall and will eventually cover many buildingson campus.

Health and building requirements prohibit Facilities fromshutting down ventilation while people are in the area – no one wouldasphyxiate, but it would probably get uncomfortable, Johnson said. Somebuildings will never be part of the program, such as the hospitals or buildingswith live animals, volatile chemicals or food storage.

In buildings that are part of the program, the maindifficulty is finding entire zones in each building that empty out early.

"Many systems are floor-wide or more," Johnsonexplained. "So one late worker, or worse, one room in need of 24-hourcooling for, say, computer servers, could require an entire building system tostay online. We end up cooling an entire building because there's one server inone room."

Efforts are underway to create centralized server rooms oncampus, but "we're not there yet," Johnson said.

Turning off theheaters and cooling down hot water

Washing hands.Facilities is also rolling out other energy-saving programs,in line with UCLA's ClimateAction Plan requiring the campus to reduce its energy use to 1990 levels by2012.

On top of a long-standing program that replaces old lightswith ever-more efficient ones and a massive ongoing project to retrofit oldbuildings with modern HVAC systems, many new buildings have been programmed to automaticallypower down their heaters when the weather is above 70 degrees.

"Otherwise, the heating systems stay warm, waiting toleap into action," Johnson said. "The heating may never come on, butthe steam is running through the pipes in the building. It's an extra load onthe steam system; not to mention the cooling system wastes energy reacting tothe radiating heat."

That project, completed in July, led to other savings.

"People complained even on hot days that it got toocold – not because the heat was off, but because the air conditioning wasrunning too hard," Johnson chuckled. "For years, their AC had beenrunning too hard to compensate for the heat coming off the steam pipes. Now, wecan reduce the amount of energy used to run the AC."

Facilities management also reduced the water temperaturerunning to bathroom sinks in many buildings, completing that effort in July.

"Many buildings run the hot water to the restroom sinksat 120 degrees — that's too hot for hands to bear, so people run the cold waterat the same time," Johnson said. "We're reducing it to 100 degrees,which is still fine for cleaning your hands, and it reduces the energy neededto heat the water."

Despite all of these efforts, they also rely on everyone oncampus to help save energy, Johnson said. Staff, faculty and students play abig role when they remember to turn off lights and computers or report that theAC is running too cold or that outdoor lights are on during the day.

"The more involvement we have from campus, the more wecan do," Johnson said. "We'd love members of campus to suggestchanges that could improve energy savings."

Media Contact