UAMS’ Green Buildings Slash Energy Costs by 20 Percent

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The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ annual utility bill is a whopping $12 million, but it could be higher.

UAMS figures it would be spending an additional $3.7 million a year had it not added several energy-saving measures to its Little Rock campus.

Those energy-savings additions have won national awards for reducing energy use per SF by 20 percent since 2008, even though the state’s only medical school added 1 million SF to its property during that time.

“I am truly amazed at the accomplishments of the UAMS team as a 20 percent reduction in energy use is impressive, but when considering this reduction is over a 5.2 million square-foot academic medical center, this feat is unprecedented,” Dale Woodin, executive director of the American Society of Healthcare Engineering, said in a recent UAMS news release. “UAMS is a shining example of how money that was previously spent on utilities can be redirected toward buildings and projects that support patient care, education and research.”

Other companies in Arkansas also are making moves to save energy, which eventually will improve their bottom lines.

L’Oreal USA recently spent more than $100,000 to change all the lights at its 1 million-SF North Little Rock plant, said David Lovejoy, the company’s director of environmental health and safety/engineer.

The work, which included replacing some light fixtures, is expected to reduce the energy bill for its lights by 25 percent, he said.

“It was a good fit with our long-term energy-conservation goals,” Lovejoy said. “Between 2005 and 2015 we’re trying to cut in half CO2, water and waste [index per finished good] from this facility.”


Return on Investment

Other Arkansas companies have expressed interest in making energy improvements but are hesitant to spend money on them, said David Moody, the state energy program manager for the Arkansas Energy Office, which is a division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

A company’s return on its energy-efficiency investment could be more than a year away, and firms don’t want to wait that long, he said.

“There aren’t a lot of [energy-saving] projects that you can do that have a one-year return on your investment,” Moody said.

Moody said companies, however, were willing to be patient when they invest in a new product line that might take three years to see a return on their investment.

“Their perspective on return on investment for energy efficiency seems to be much shorter than it is on some other business decisions that they make,” Moody said.

If companies invested in replacing light bulbs or older equipment with energy-efficient models, companies could see their energy bills drop by several hundred to several thousand dollars a month, he said.

Greg Henderson, marketing manager for Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions of Little Rock, also said more companies were inquiring about ways to save energy.

“With the economy, people are having to take a look at their costs a lot more carefully,” he said. “Energy bills seem to be ways that companies can cut some budget without impacting their employees.”

Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions holds seminars for manufacturers on ways they can reduce their energy bills. Henderson said the seminars, which are held every other month, accommodated about 30 people and were usually full.

Henderson said AMS also was pushing manufacturers to apply to the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration for a utility tax break. Manufacturers meeting the DF&A’s requirements can receive a discounted 3.125 percent tax rate on gas and electricity that are used for manufacturing a product.

In the past six months, AMS has encouraged 70 companies to apply for the tax reduction, Henderson said.


National Recognition

UAMS’ energy-saving efforts during the past several years have been recognized by national organizations.

On Aug. 11, the American Society of Healthcare Engineering presented UAMS with an Energy Efficient Commitment Award. And UAMS’ Residence Hall, which opened in 2006, also was given the Energy Star designation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Energy Star award is the first for a University of Arkansas system building. The dorm also ranked in the top 10 percent of residence halls for energy efficiency across the country, UAMS said in its news release.

“UAMS is committed to find ways to be environmentally friendly and economically responsible and we are thrilled to be recognized for our efforts,” UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn said in the news release.

The dorm’s energy use per year was 28,000 British thermal units per SF, compared with the national average for residence halls of 54,000 Btus, UAMS said.

The UAMS Residence Hall replaced one that was built in the 1950s and, like a lot of UAMS’ older buildings, constantly swallowed energy.

One of the energy-saving features in the UAMS dorm includes having daylight sensors in all public areas so that electrical lights won’t switch on when there’s sufficient natural lighting, said Jonathan Flannery, UAMS’ executive director of engineering and operations.

The dorm also has a system to capture 80 percent of the building’s exhaust to reheat the air, “which saves a significant amount of energy trying to heat the building,” he said.

In addition, the Residence Hall director encourages the students to conserve energy.

The energy savings for the dorm building are projected at $87,000 annually.

“We are trying to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” said Robert Airo, UAMS’ sustainability coordinator, who was hired last year.

He said the money that UAMS saves on its energy bill can be used for patient care or for education.

“Because of the support from the UA system, Robert’s position as a sustainability coordinator exists,” said UAMS spokeswoman Leslie Taylor. “That’s another major accomplishment.”


New Structures

Flannery said the main energy savings could be traced to UAMS’ new structures, which all meet LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) criteria.

In the past two years, UAMS has added a 540,000-SF hospital, 300,000 SF to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, a 100,500-SF Psychiatric Research Institute, a 43,000-SF I. Dodd Wilson Education Building and a 23,000-SF West Central Energy Plant.

The new buildings have solar-shaded glass that allows light in but keeps heat out, UAMS said.

UAMS also improved its energy savings with the $3.4 million West Central Energy Plant, which opened in 2007. It alone saves the campus $3.5 million annually, UAMS said.

Flannery said part of the savings was tied to the plant’s heating and cooling water equipment. The heat pump chiller system was one of the first of its kind to be installed in the country, Flannery said.

He said the system captures the heat generated from cooling water and uses it to warm water.

“Therefore, we don’t have to run boilers to heat water,” he said.

Flannery said updating the power plant for the east buildings on campus is on the drawing board.

He said he didn’t have a timeline on when that project would be tackled. But once that new energy plant is running, it is expected to save UAMS even more money on its energy bills, Flannery said.