Trustees support Penn State’s sustainability successes, goals

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning today (Jan. 15) took steps to reduce the University’s energy use through the approval of two design-build teams to handle energy conservation projects at the University. The committee also received an update from Steve Maruszewski, assistant vice president for the Office of Physical Plant, on the progress the University has made to develop and meet its operational sustainability goals over the past decade.

Penn State had been aggressively pursuing sustainability even before the Office of Finance & Business officially adopted "environmental stewardship" as one of the Key Initiatives of its 2002-05 Strategic Plan. The University is currently on track to achieve several milestones:

-- 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020;

-- 20 percent reduction in building energy usage over the next 10 years;

-- 85 percent diversion of solid waste from the landfill by 2017;

-- $55 million investment in energy savings over 5 years; and

-- 60 percent of a $2.7 billion capital plan dedicated to renovation and retrofitting aging campus infrastructure.

Penn State has a comprehensive approach toward planning and building high-performance projects that are sustainable and provide for an increased return-on-investment. Since 1997, University-wide, Penn State has added 4.5 million square feet of building space. At the same time, it has reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to below 1997 levels. More than 1 million square feet of this new space is for high-technology buildings including our new Millennium Science Complex, laboratory space for Chemistry and the Life Sciences, and new business, law and forestry buildings, all of which achieved LEED certification.

Penn State’s sustainability efforts have been rewarded numerous times. Most recently on a national scale, Penn State was honored with the 2014 APPA Sustainability Award for its past achievements, as well as its ongoing efforts for a more sustainable future. In addition, Penn State also received the National Recycling Coalition’s 2014 Outstanding Higher Education Award as one of the “Best of the Best” for its recycling program and its efforts to connect higher education in industry. Twenty-five years ago, the University recycled less than a ton of its waste, but today diverts more than 100 types of waste measuring nearly 10,000 tons from the landfill.

Penn State has reduced its campus GHG emissions by 17.5 percent since 2005 and has set an ambitious new reduction goal of 35 percent by 2020. The 17.5 percent reduction was based on a foundation of energy conservation but was supplemented with the purchase of renewable energy credits. The new goal of a 35 percent reduction by 2020 will continue to be anchored with conservation efforts, but will be supplemented with an increased level of combined heat and power (CHP), low-carbon energy production and hydropower. On the site, visitors can toggle through the GHG emissions reduction strategies to see where the University’s emissions would be through no mitigation or with any combination of strategies.

In 2011, a combustion turbine and heat recovery steam generator (CT-HRSG) was installed at Penn State’s East Campus Steam Plant (ECSP) to modernize the facility and cogenerate 30,000 lb/hr of steam and 7MW of electricity. Penn State’s district energy system produces 100 percent of campus steam needs and about 20 percent of campus electrical needs. In 2011, Penn State’s system operated at 72 percent efficiency. When completed, Penn State's system will operate at better than 80 percent — more than twice the efficiency of the electric grid.

Recently, Penn State joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge and pledged to reduce its building portfolio’s energy use by 20 percent over the next decade. With a commitment of 28 million square feet, Penn State is the largest university in the program.

In 2013, Penn State entered into a 10-year power purchase agreement with Mahoning Creek Hydroelectric Company. This new 6MW hydroelectric generating plant was built in 2013 at the existing USACE dam on Mahoning Creek located in Armstrong County, Pa. Penn State will purchase all of the net electric output from the facility and retain the environmental attributes. This is approximately 8 percent of the University Park campus’s electric purchase.

Penn State’s Energy Savings Program (ESP) was originally based on the guidelines of the PA Guaranteed Energy Savings Program. ESP projects include energy-saving renovations and retrofits with a maximum payback of 10 years including financing costs. Multiple ESP projects have been completed at University Park and many campuses, including the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. The University has committed $55 million investment over the next five years specifically to this program.

The Office of Physical Plant (OPP) is now planning for future ESP projects that may cost more than $5 million, which requires Board of Trustee designer appointment and approval. The committee recommended the appointment of Burns & McDonnell of Kansas City, Mo., and The Efficiency Network (TEN) of Pittsburgh, Pa., to design and build future Energy Savings Program (ESP) projects for the University. Burns & McDonnell and TEN were selected as the most qualified and capable to complete the ESP work, and projects will be assigned to these firms based on best fit.

Research Building West Renovations, University Park

An example of an upcoming ESP project is the renovation of portions of Research Building West at University Park. This project began as an ESP project with a budget of $1.6 million. OPP has retained TEN to design the energy-efficiency improvements. In addition to the ESP work, additional improvements that need to be completed include HVAC repairs, lab recirculation corrections, utilities upgrades and other mechanical improvements.

Consolidating these upgrades and improvements with the ESP work will eliminate project overlap, minimize occupant disruption, reduce overhead and simplify construction coordination.

As a result of this expanded project scope, the Research Building West Renovation project is currently estimated at $7 million, which requires Board of Trustee designer appointment and approval. TEN has the technical capability to design this additional work, and they are familiar with the systems and customers in Research West.

Last Updated January 15, 2015