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University’s Parking Structure Balances Needs with Sustainability

By Marshall Dunbar

Colleges and universities are facing an unprecedented time of shrinking endowments and rising costs, in particular energy costs. To help offset these expenses, schools are making investments in energy efficiency and sustainable practices to cut operational costs, while attracting environmentally conscious students and alumni supporters.

While California is a large consumer, the state also leads the nation in sustainable efforts and mandates. For example, in 2006, the California Global Warming Solutions Act was passed into law; it mandates a first-in-the-nation limit on emissions. Specifically, the act requires the state to reduce its carbon emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.

The California State University (CSU) system, which has 23 campuses, and other state institutions are major consumers of energy and natural resources. In January 2008, in fact, the Environmental Protection Agency ranked CSU as the fourth-largest college or university purchaser of renewable energy.

One school in the system, CSU Fullerton (CSUF), is working toward all-exterior campus lighting to utilize monitored and controlled LED lighting systems. In May 2009, the university broke ground on a new parking structure, which was completed July 15 and will be ready for use this fall.

The environmentally friendly facility has a first-level center to assist those visiting the campus with general parking and university information.

The six-story, 1,500-space Eastside Parking Structure includes several sustainable and state-of-the-art features, according to CSUF’s Office of Design and Construction (ODC).

The landscaping around the structure consists of low-water, drought-resistant local plants. The structure also is equipped with a “bioswale” designed to direct excess water into plants for more efficient storm drainage, which will reduce the need for irrigation.

A solar panel system, called a photovoltaic array, will be added to the roof of the structure. The electricity generated will feed into the campus’ power grid.

Another high-tech feature is the facility’s advanced lighting control system. LED lighting with dimming capabilities will allow for a 50% to 60% reduction in power usage compared with metal halide fixtures, and an additional 15% to 20% reduction when using the wireless controls. The luminaires will be virtually maintenance-free.

“The lights will be motion-sensored, and when the sun is out, the lights will actually dim automatically,” said Stephen Halcum, the consulting project manager with CSUF’s Office of Design and Construction. “It’s going to be very power efficient.”

The ODC says the project cost about $24 million; it was financed using bonds, which will be paid for by parking fees, Halcum told the campus newspaper last summer.

In selecting the architect and construction company, CSUF held a design-build competition. Bomel Construction, partnered with International Parking Design, won the contract.

California has what many consider the strictest energy code in the country – the Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings, Title 24, Part 6, of the state Code of Regulations. As of Jan. 1, 2010, the state Energy Commission adopted an update to CA Title 24.

Lighting at CSUF’s Eastside Parking Structure is 80% below CA Title 24 energy code requirements, meaning that it uses only 20% of the energy permitted for this size of a structure. This savings resulted in CSUF receiving nearly $120,000 in an energy incentive payment.

This new parking structure is a win-win for CSUF, administrators say: While helping to reduce energy and maintenance costs, they also see benefit in sustainable practices as a way to enhance a school’s image as forward-thinking and attentive to campus and student values.

Marshall Dunbar is Western Region Sales Manager for Beta-Kramer. He can be reached at marshall_dunbar@beta-kramer.com

Article Abstract from August, 2011




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