- 8:30 AM

Importance and Methods for Regulation of Building Resources in An Environmentally Conscious World

Robert W. Peters, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, 1075 13th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294-4440 and Dana Lackey, Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1075 13th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294-4440.

As energy costs nationwide are spiraling upward virtually out of control, more and more of the per capita salary goes into the gas tank, and as a result, less state revenue is generated from consumer spending. Therefore, universities and other state-funded establishments have been forced to make massive cutbacks, and almost all are seeking methods for conserving their own energy, thereby reducing expenditures. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is no exception, as a $55 million budget cut has been proposed for the 2009 fiscal year. Therefore, enormous pressure has been placed on UAB Facilities Management Department to find ways to reduce energy expenditure, and one of the most important ways to do this is to regulate the resources that people within buildings use, including lighting, heating, and water. This regulation also has favorable consequences for the environment.

Building resources can be regulated a number of ways, from the extremely simple techniques, such as lowering or raising thermostats depending on season or flipping off light switches, to the more complex, such as implementation of motion sensors and lighting ballast controls. Other, long-term solutions, such as implementation of green roofs or solar panels, typically require years of research to be effective. However, with environmental consciousness on the rise, and the skies ahead looking gloomy financially, the question that has been posed by building deans to Facilities Management is, “what can we do about this now?”

With this in mind, the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at UAB has been collaborating with the Facilities management Department to perform building occupancy surveys in a large number of buildings across campus in after-hours on weekdays, and on weekends. The aim of these surveys was to determine how efficiently building resources have been used, by counting the number of people occupying each room, and by noting whether lights have been left on if the room is unoccupied. Other “low hanging fruit” such as replacement of incandescent lighting, vending machines, freely-running water, and other non-efficient energy usages have also been noted.

This data was used to make overall recommendations to the Facilities Management Department and academic deans of measures they can take in order to reduce energy costs. Academic buildings that do not have large amounts of literature, for example, can withstand a 7-hour setback of air conditioning and dehumidification systems from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on weeknights, and possibly longer on weekends (48 hours from 6:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, for example). Research efforts could still be supported by the air conditioning/humidity system; only large gatherings would find such a change uncomfortable. As for lighting, usage of lights only when the room is occupied or when natural lighting is unavailable is a favorable change at the building dean's discretion, but more long-term measures include motion sensors and layered lighting systems, as well as restricting access to certain floors during certain times of the day. These measures have achieved favorable results in buildings where they have been implemented.