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Going For The Green:
Eco-Friendly Building Strategies Gather Steam On Campus

June 28, 2005
Dennis Chaptman, 608-262-9406 dchaptman@wisc.edu

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MADISON - On a rain-splattered spring day, a construction worker ran a sweeper on Linden Drive to clean up a muddy slurry left behind by dump trucks hauling dirt from the excavation site for the new Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The work keeps soil from running into storm sewers that drain into Lake Mendota.

Later that same morning, officials gathered under the canopy of a nearby gas station to announce a university-funded program that will exchange more than four thousand old gasoline storage cans for new, environmentally friendly ones that Dane County homeowners can use to cut the release of ozone-making ingredients into the atmosphere.

Elsewhere, architects are working on environmentally sound campus buildings, students are using plumbing fixtures that save water and energy, and diesel trucks are using cleaner fuels.

All across the campus, a green movement is picking up steam.

The planned addition to Grainger Hall, for example, will incorporate a number of environmentally conscious design principles, including daylighting - a way of positioning the building to make maximum use of the sun's rays and reduce the need for artificial light. Designers are using more aggressive energy-saving technology and relying on recycled materials, says Kurt Zimmerman, an architect with Milwaukee's Zimmerman Design Group.

"We're talking about the environment going hand in hand with form and function," Zimmerman says.

Near where the sweeper clatters down Linden Drive, the new Microbial Sciences Building will feature the campus's first designed "green roof," which will include plants and groundcover in a lightweight soil to help reduce stormwater runoff.

But it's not just new construction that is receiving green scrutiny. The university has invested more than $29 million over several years in improving efficiency in existing buildings. Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor for facilities, says more than 12 million square feet of university buildings have been audited for energy use, and new energy management systems have been installed.

"We have concentrated on wise use of resources across the campus, replacing 2,000 motors with premium-efficiency motors, installing more than 8,500 occupancy sensors, retrofitting 6,000 lighting fixtures with high-efficiency units and replacing 3,000 toilets with water saving, ultra-low flow models," Fish says.

Earlier this year, the university's diesel-powered truck fleet became the first in Wisconsin to fill its tanks with a blend of ultra-low sulfur diesel and a soybean-based biodiesel fuel in an effort to improve air quality. The new mixture yields a 13 percent reduction in hydrocarbons, a 16 percent decline in emissions of carbon dioxide and a 15 percent reduction in soot emission.

Not everything on campus is so squeaky clean. The UW's coal-fired heating plant, for example, still receives much criticism from environmental groups as a source of air pollution. The university has invested $12 million in the past decade to ensure it meets state and federal air standards, and Fish says that officials are evaluating the costs and benefits of additional changes, such as more clean and efficient technology and switching fuels.

But even obsolete buildings may turn out being green in the end. When Ogg Hall is demolished to make room for new student housing, its concrete towers will be ground up and reused in roadbeds. In fact, 75 percent of the old residence hall will be recycled.

For more information, contact -
Alan Fish, 608-262-3488 afish@fpm.wisc.edu

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