UVU, BYU going green

Lexie Flickinger
UVU presidential intern Skyler Payne helped create UVU’s first-ever sustainability wall to increase students’ environmental awareness. (Lexie Flickinger)

The UVU administration has been conscious of the land it operates on since 1977 when the school acquired over 185 acres of land from the government in southwest Orem, according to UVU’s history website. 

UVU’s campus energy and heat are sourced by a geothermal ground source heat pump, according to UVU project manager Tad Greener. The geothermal pump is made of four wells of water that work in pairs to heat and cool the buildings. The water is pumped up a well on one side of campus and is used to warm or cool the air across campus. Then the water is returned to the other side of the school, according to Greener.

Greener said no water is removed or chemically altered in the process. According to UVU’s sustainability website, using the earth’s natural heat reduces the need to burn natural gas. The geothermal system has been extended to all buildings on the UVU campus.

UVU has decreased its impact on the environment by reusing irrigation water. According to Utah’s Division of Water Resources, Utahns use 240 gallons of water per person each day. To reduce the consumption of water resources, UVU reuses water to hydrate lawns and vegetation. 

According to UVU sustainability committee leader Stacy Hamm, the university’s irrigation water is chemical free and is sourced from local reservoirs. The water from the reservoirs flows naturally so no pumping or treatments systems are needed for UVU’s irrigation system. The water is stored in two large irrigation pools which double as decorative reflection ponds.

In order to combat water waste, UVU uses an irrigation system with sensored watering times. According to the UVU sustainability website, the sensors detect when watering is needed based on the evaporation, temperature and humidity levels in the air. The irrigation system works by slowly seeping water into the ground. The system was designed to avoid wasting water on wet roads and sidewalks and through evaporation.

BYU has a similar irrigation system where sprinklers and drip lines are constantly monitored by a computer program to ensure efficient water usage, according to BYU’s sustainability website.

Water from the Provo River Water Rights System is also used for irrigation and fills the stream south of campus, according to BYU’s sustainability website.

“Our goal is to get all of our campus irrigation water to come from secondary water sources — Provo river canals specifically. About 70 percent of our campus is watered from the canal system,”  BYU grounds supervisor Glenl Wear said.

Wear said BYU grounds management is looking into other materials to help plants on the BYU campus be more tolerant to water shortages.

BYU landscaping designed an outdoor lighting system to reduce light pollution. Light pollution occurs when artificial light falls on areas where it isn’t needed, according to the International Dark-Sky Association. This can cause visual impairment and makes the sky look illuminated at night when the stars should be seen. The unnecessary amount of light sent into the sky and other areas also wastes electricity.

UVU has a similar system in place.

In addition to irrigation and energy conservation, UVU builds “green” buildings.

Hamm earned an architecture degree from the University of Utah and has been part of UVU’s sustainability team for seven years. Since Hamm joined the university in 2011, seven new buildings were constructed.

Most campus buildings at UVU and several at BYU were constructed according to the LEED building standard before 2015, according to Hamm.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a construction certification system that gives buildings certain awards depending on the amount of environmentally-friendly aspects the structure contains, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s website.

The Hinckley Center, BYU Broadcasting and the Information Technology Building on BYU campus are all LEED certified. These buildings were constructed to save energy, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve water efficiency and indoor environmental quality, according to BYU’s sustainability website.

Hamm said UVU stopped certifying the buildings with the LEED standard and shifted to constructing under a new system in 2015 called the High Performance Building Standard.

The High Performance Building Standard is a branch under The Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management which requires environmentally friendly construction, Hamm said.

The Fulton Library at UVU was the first building in Utah to be built to the High Performance Building Standard, according to the university.

Hamm said the High Performance Building Standard requires efficient water consumption, LED lighting, installation of environmentally friendly appliances, air-tight insulation, conscious waste diversion and strict auditing.

According to Hamm, air-tight insulation is important because it minimizes heating and cooling costs.

“They do an air test,” Hamm said. “They fill a space with air and see where it is leaking out. They make sure the envelope or perimeter of the building is built, sealed and overlapping so no water or air can escape and get in or out.”

Hamm said High Performance Buildings require a strict waste-management plan during construction.

“You have to divert 75 percent of the waste. There is a lot of waste during construction. There has to be a management plan for that,” Hamm said.

Hamm was involved in the construction of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism in May 2017. The autism center was one of the first UVU buildings built to the High Performance Building Standard. The new Performing Arts Center, which will to be completed by the end of 2018, will be built to the same standards, according to Hamm.

Hamm said sustainability at UVU is still a priority even as the school expands. Solar panels are not currently installed in the majority of the UVU campus buildings, but Hamm said she suspects UVU will look at solar power options in the future.

UVU’s electric car usage and charging stations have tripled in the last year and Hamm said she expects the numbers to continue to increase.

General awareness about sustainability at UVU is also expected to grow, Hamm said.

In addition, UVU presidential intern Skyler Payne has been working on a sustainability wall to increase students’ environmental awareness.

“The sustainability wall is a giant mural with interactive touch screens of everything that the university is currently involved with,” Payne said. “Students can come up to it and see what the university is doing and how much impact could be generated if the student body would jump on board.”

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