EUGENE, Ore. — The University of Oregon has adopted sustainability standards that will cap energy use from new development, resulting in a net-zero increase in energy use despite continued construction on its 295-acre campus. New projects will be required to meet LEED Gold certification and must produce 35 percent greater energy savings than the state’s building code requires.
The Oregon Model for Sustainable Development focuses on energy, water and people through various conservation, mitigation and education standards. It is a new amendment to the Campus Plan — the current version of land use guidelines that have governed development at the UO since 1914 — and replaces the UO Sustainable Development Plan, which had been in effect since 2000.
“The University of Oregon has been a national leader in establishing sustainable practices since the 1970s,” UO President Richard Lariviere said. “With adoption of the bold new Oregon Model for Sustainable Development, the UO proves once again that it is uniquely positioned to lead the way in creating a sustainable environment for Oregon and beyond.”
The Oregon model, which was adopted this summer, requires new construction projects to neutralize their energy use by paying for energy-saving measures at older UO buildings. New buildings must also contribute to the treatment of stormwater runoff from streets and parking lots around campus, and must include educational opportunities that encourage environmentally sensitive behaviors by building occupants.
The updated standards are expected to add between 1 percent and 6 percent to capital construction costs. New projects will be responsible for covering a 10 percent share of energy-saving measures in existing buildings, achieving LEED Gold certification and providing educational displays for building users. The remainder of mitigation project costs for the older structures will be financed through a new Central Energy Fund — which is expected to eventually receive much of its funding through energy savings.
Total costs may be as much as $10 million over the Oregon Model’s 10-year planning cycle, during which an estimated 1.3 million square feet of additional development is expected. But energy-reduction investments are intended to be repaid through cost-savings — for example, the UO would be saving more than $500,000 per year in utility costs at 10 recent construction projects if the new policy had been in effect when they were built.
“By reducing energy demand through green design and harvesting their energy needs from (efficiency upgrades to) existing buildings, new buildings are essentially paying their lifetime energy costs upfront,” said Steve Mital, the UO’s sustainability director.
Standards laid out in the Oregon Model will apply to all new UO buildings and major remodels that are subject to Oregon’s State Energy Efficiency Design (SEED) requirements. The state law already requires all new, energy-using buildings constructed by state agencies to exceed energy conservation provisions of the Oregon State Energy Code by at least 20 percent.
But under the Oregon Model for Sustainable Development, new construction projects at the UO will be required to meet an “Advanced Energy Threshold,” which is set initially at 35 percent greater efficiency than the state code.
The Oregon Model’s requirements will not apply to development projects already in the design phase, which include renovations of the Erb Memorial Union and the Student Recreation Center, and a deferred maintenance and seismic upgrade project at Straub Hall. Projects currently under construction — including the Lewis Integrative Science Building, the East Campus Residence Hall and the Allen Hall renovation and expansion — are also exempt.
The Oregon Model includes incentives for building projects to go beyond the Advanced Energy Threshold standards. Those that achieve efficiencies 5 percent greater than the threshold will have their required efficiency upgrades to existing buildings paid entirely by the Central Energy Fund. And new projects whose efficiencies are more than 5 percent above the threshold may apply for partial funding through the Central Energy Fund.
“The goal is to integrate sustainability into the design phase (of all new projects), to make it a seamless part of the project,” said Christine Thompson of Campus Planning and Real Estate. “The design phase should carefully consider building shape, lighting systems, thermal envelope, mechanical and electrical systems, and a variety of other factors.”
About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of “Very High Research Activity” in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.
SOURCES: Christine Thompson, Campus Planning and Real Estate; Steve Mital, UO sustainability director