Washburn takes steps to diminish carbon footprint

Tricia Peterson Washburn Review

Changes are coming to Washburn. Some will be behind the scenes, others will be right in your face.

With a recent partnership with an energy savings company called Trane, Washburn and Washburn Institute of Technology will be updating lighting, heating, air conditioning, ventilation and water fixtures in 21 of the buildings at Washburn University and eight buildings at WIT. These updates will make both campuses more energy efficient than they currently are.

Trane is an ESCO that came to WU to design and engineer improvements based on what needs replaced, as well as what they deem needs replacing. The company has already been at Washburn to audit the campus and construction will be underway in the next week. Construction at WIT has already begun. 

“This project will provide improvements to Washburn’s facilities by increasing our long-term energy efficiency while considerably reducing the campus’ carbon footprint,” said Rick Anderson, vice president for administration and treasurer. “When the project is complete, we will have a sustainable, high performance campus and we will see significant savings annually in our operating costs.”

Facility services and Trane, the company doing the construction, will be starting with lighting fixtures during the month of February and March, and students, faculty and staff will hardly notice the work.

“We started it first for a couple reasons,” said Edward Wiss, assistant director for maintenance at WU. “[One is] that they will actually do most of the work during the graveyard shift hours, so it will be happening when we are at home in bed.”

Trane has scheduled the design and construction to allow classes and activities to continue with minimal disruption. The goal is to be finished within 18-20 months, which means the construction should be finished by the fall of 2014.

Washburn is paying $12.3 million for these improvements, which the Board of Regents approved, but as with all upgrades to higher energy efficiency, the expense comes with projected savings. An estimated $617,880 will be saved on energy bills per year with these new improvements.

“We should have a payback, where the money invested will be paid for in 14 years,” said Wiss. “It actually gets better as time goes on.”

Washburn will be leaving a significantly smaller carbon footprint, and will save money in the long run.

Wiss went on to say that these savings will accrue only if staff is trained correctly and if equipment is taken care of properly. The cost and savings estimates are based on the equipment running smoothly and people knowing how to use it. There will be training in place to ensure that this happens.

In addition to the replaced lighting, new water fixtures, improved water heaters, the heating, cooling and ventilation systems will be updated. Climate control and occupancy settings will be upgraded and will help make rooms more comfortable as well as easier to control for unoccupied areas. Construction will begin in May and June.

“We will be doing more of the comfort controls for HVAC where there will be unoccupied settings in places we don’t have very many of them now,” said Wiss. “In a large arena or an area that is unoccupied the temp can either go to a winter or summer unoccupied setting, then the power we would spend [on] either the AC or heater, would be saved because we won’t have to heat or cool that space.”

Pick up the Washburn Review and keep checking the website in the upcoming weeks for updates on the status of the construction. For more information about the company, Trane, visit their website at http://www.trane.com/Index.aspx. They will have an office during the 18 months they are at WU, located at 21st Street and Washburn Avenue.