By Daniel Schemer, November 2009
A Climate Action Plan, consisting of strategies and additions to already existing measures for carbon reduction, is being drafted by the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability for UMass Dartmouth to reach carbon neutrality in 40 years. This long-term plan is meant to ensure that the campus reduces its carbon footprint 20% by 2012, 40% by 2020, and 80% by 2050.
The urgency of this plan goes well beyond recycling and growing more plants. “The 2020 goal is generally considered as really the most important target because 2020 is gonna show whether or not the world is on track to achieving this goal or not, because if the world hasn’t made progress by then, then it’s already too late,” explained Tom Paine, who is drafting the Climate Action Plan.
The biggest step being taken to reach the 40% reduction by 2020 is a brand-new retrofit performance contract with Noresco, an energy solutions company that provides consultation, design, and construction of efficient energy facilities for the federal government, universities, and other public buildings. Noresco’s renovation of all campus energy-consuming systems includes rebuilding the steam plant for cogeneration, which means it will be able to provide both heating/air conditioning and electricity. Other tasks with Noresco include improving the water sewerage system and its transfer to treatment plants, and also the installing of solar air heating for the Athletic Center. “Noresco will get us half way there with a 20% reduction,” said Mr. Paine.
The next significant measure will be the installing of a 500-750 kilowatt wind turbine on campus. It will most likely go where the Meteorological Tower is, which has been measuring wind speeds and patterns since the spring. Because UMass Dartmouth is in the flight path of New Bedford Airport, the campus will need FAA approval first. Whenever this turbine goes up—hopefully sometime next year—estimations give it an additional 5% reduction in emissions.
So where will the additional 15% come from for the 2020 goal? That is still being worked out. “A huge chunk comes from commuting,” said Mr. Paine, who estimates the carbon footprint with transportation to be somewhere between 30-40%. Admittedly, this is a complex factor to solve with difficult solutions to implement. In addition to more carpooling and better public transportation, a popular idea is to have more dorms for students and buildings for faculty living. “Having a more resident-based campus would make it more sustainable,” said Mr. Paine. He adds that “If you look at the master plan from Paul Rudolph [architect for UMass Dartmouth] you can see he actually included that. There’s way more residence in that plan than we have on campus.” Another idea being explored concerns using electric cars and/or hybrids for campus transportation and short off-campus distances. The Office of Public Safety currently has one of these community electric vehicles for a trial run.
More insulation in the academic buildings is also being addressed. “Concrete holds energy pretty well, but the windows are just awful. There’s like zero insulation value in them.” An upcoming project is the renovation of the library, funded by Division Capital Asset Management (DCAM), a Massachusetts agency responsible for all state public building construction and real estate. All the windows of the library will be replaced and the building will be redesigned to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
Drafting the Climate Action Plan requires intensive research, analysis and formulating statistics. Tom Paine’s primary tool for assembling his database has been carbon calculating software from Clean Air, Cool Planet, a non-profit organization dedicated to global warming. “It is one of the more complex spreadsheets a person can imagine to use.” The software is able to track energy usage, water usage, and paper consumption on campus and has all the required metrical figures and energy coefficients for this endeavor. It is also able to determine the cost-benefit analysis of each upgrade. Based on all current project proposals for the Climate Action Plan, UMass Dartmouth will pay over $65 million for the upgrades over the next 20 years. However, total savings are estimated to reach $78 million with a Net cash flow of $12 million.
The Climate Action Plan is a required component under The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which UMass Dartmouth is a member. It is also vital for meeting the requirements of Massachusetts Executive Order no. 484, which mandates reduction of CO2 emissions, more renewable energy, and more sustainable efficiency for all public and government buildings. A campus carbon audit was done earlier this year by Tom Paine for the Sustainability Assessment, so the Action Plan is taking that information and determining what will work. Because sustainability has been an ongoing process on campus, many measures necessary to reach these percentages are already in place; the Action Plan’s proposals will enhance and add new measures.
The final draft of the Climate Action Plan will be completed by January with a presentation side by side with The Sustainability Assessment in February. “In a large sense, the work from the sustainability assessment serves as the steps we’re going to take to achieve the carbon reduction plan. The Sustainability Assessment directly led to the creation of the plan.”