Sustainability: Our common challenge

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jon Chiasson standing next to a row of solar panels on a roof.

Jon Chiasson, energy analyst with the Office of Campus Sustainability, next to some of the solar panels that are helping uOttawa reduce its carbon footprint.

By Brandon Gillet

Facilities and its Office of Campus Sustainability (OCS) have been hard at work in the past year saving energy and taking other steps to make our campus one of the world’s most sustainable. Already, uOttawa ranks 27th in the world and second in Canada on the UI Green Metric sustainability survey of more than 400 universities, prepared by Universitas Indonesia.

On the heels of other achievements, such as uOttawa’s national first-place finish in the RecycleMania contest, Facilities hopes to spark a whole-of-campus effort in 2016–2017 that will move us even higher up the sustainability rankings. To get there, everyone needs to be part of the solution.

In the meantime, they’re doing their part, with four buildings scheduled for comprehensive energy retrofits in the next year. They are also exploring “zero-net buildings,” which produce roughly as much energy as they use over the course of a year.

“We’ve never built a zero-net building, so we don’t know just how close we can get,” said OCS manager Jonathan Rausseo. “But with the next couple of new buildings on campus, we are really going to push to get that done.”

Bicycle icons painted on the asphalt indicate that the street is entirely reserved for cyclists.

Marie Curie has had its wide lane converted to a shared bike-car lane as part of efforts to reduce cars in the campus core.

Initiatives such as promoting alternative transportation and increasing green spaces on campus have helped reduce nitrous oxides by 90% and greenhouse gas emissions to below 15,000 tonnes. According to Rausseo, “We haven’t see that kind of number since 1974 when we started collecting data.”

Energy conservation is key to uOttawa’s ambitious plans, and Georges Monrose is at the heart of these efforts.

“Basically, I am mandated to remove electrical energy on campus,” Monrose said. He is the embedded energy manager at the OCS, in a partnership between the University and Hydro Ottawa (click “Energy programs”) to find ways to cut electricity consumption on campus.

Monrose cites one example of how a seemingly small change can reap big rewards as the University works toward its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 34% from 2005 levels.

“The old fluorescent lighting tubes on campus are 25 or 32 watt, whereas the new LED tubes are 12 watt,” Monrose said.

With about 90,000 tubes on campus, changing to the new technology will save 1,200 kW of power — the equivalent of two times the peak energy consumption of the entire Social Sciences Building.

“The University spends more than $1 million a month on electricity, and the lighting upgrades alone will save 10%,” Monrose said.

Other savings will be found by improving heating and cooling systems, with the Bioscience and Colonel By buildings scheduled for upgrades in the next academic year.

Most on-campus sustainability achievements are invisible, notes Rausseo, but no one should take them for granted. All faculties and services need to be aware of the changes and become involved in the efforts.

“We’d like to see people start to take responsibility for spaces,” Rausseo said. “For example, if you walk by an empty classroom and the lights are on, let us know. We can turn lights off centrally.

“We want students and staff to get involved in sustainability. You be our eyes and ears, and we’ll make the spaces better.”

Stay tuned for a campaign in the new school year to help raise awareness of sustainability issues and promote behaviour change across campus.

Six smiling women are showing cards with 'Ask me why I'm awesome' on them. One of them holds a bowl and a spoon.

Students taking part in Food Services’ Love Food, Not Waste challenge in the 24/7 Dining Hall. Facilities wants more students and staff to become involved in sustainability efforts.


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