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December 12, 2003

ISU halfway to energy goal

by Linda Charles
As the midpoint of the fiscal year approaches, energy savings on campus total more than $900,000 -- over half the $1.5 million annual goal.

That goal gets harder to reach as new buildings are opened and more requests for exemptions from temperature guidelines are granted, said Clark Thompson, engineer with facilities planning and management.

The baseline for energy savings doesn't change when new buildings are opened, Thompson said. That means, for example, as the new Gerdin Business Building is occupied, additional energy savings will need to be found to compensate for the energy used in the building.

On the plus side, new buildings are constructed with energy savings in mind, he said. For example, they have sensors that not only turn off lights when people leave a room, but also lower the temperature until the room is occupied again.

More people are requesting exemptions from the guidelines that call for thermostats to be set at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 in the summer, Thompson said.

"As the exemptions continue to grow, it becomes a challenge for the university to meet the $1.5 million goal," he said.

Now in the third year of the program, facilities staff monitor 52 buildings on campus for energy use. Energy savings in those buildings have increased incrementally as staff have identified what equipment and air handlers can be turned off at times and how the space is used. Most savings occur outside the normal workday, Thompson said.

For example, if a classroom is used at night, facilities staff try to identify the specific equipment need for that classroom and turn the rest off.

Another way that energy costs are reduced is by clustering nighttime activities in as few buildings as possible to cut heating, cooling and lighting costs.

Sometimes, special adjustments need to be made to save energy. For example, two of the three air handlers in Town Engineering now are shut off outside the normal work day. A previous attempt to shut off the air handlers resulted in odors from some of the labs migrating throughout the building. Working with occupants of the building, facilities staff found a solution.

Because much of Iowa State's energy is generated with coal, the university won't be hit as hard as natural gas users if winter heating costs increase as predicted. But eventually, Thompson said, natural gas increases will cause increases in the price of coal. How much, he said, isn't known yet.

The people at Iowa State are a big part of the energy conservation program, Thompson said. By turning off computers, printers and coffee pots or not running fans and space heaters, they can make a big dent in energy costs.

More information about the university's energy saving program is available online at
Turn it off
Faculty and staff are reminded to take one last look around their offices before they leave for winter break to make sure they have turned everything off. Things to double check include lights, personal computers, monitors, printers, copiers and coffee makers. While the savings from turning a printer off over the break may not be much, when that savings is multiplied by hundreds of printers across campus, it mounts up.

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