For campus community, it's easy being green

By Erin Prather Stafford / March 13-20, 2011

UT Southwestern is making great strides in becoming more environmentally friendly with campuswide “green” initiatives to benefit future generations.

The new University Hospital is being built to achieve Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED, created by the U.S. Green Building Council, allows building projects to earn points for satisfying specific criteria.

Additionally, the nearly completed research tower on the North Campus is being constructed to receive a LEED “Silver” level by incorporating such conservation measures as a rainwater recapture system and windows that will radiate heat back into the building during the winter, while reflecting infrared heat radiation from the sun in the summer.

“Green initiatives are helping to conserve resources and reduce pollution,” said Kirby Vahle, vice president for physical plant administration.

Green changes also are being made to existing buildings.
UT Southwestern received a $2 million federal grant to place solar panels in the open parking lot at the Bass Center, which will save an estimated 406,281 kilowatt-hours — the equivalent of taking the carbon output of 56 passenger vehicles off the road. The project should be completed by October.

Updates also have been made to the natural-gas-powered steam boilers that heat campus buildings and process steam for research and clinical needs. Through the emissions reduction project, the medical center has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 58 percent from 2005 levels. Other campus changes include installing energy-efficient lighting in all campus buildings and, with the help of a state grant, converting four gasoline-powered shuttle buses to use compressed natural gas. Eventually all new UT Southwestern vehicles will run on alternative fuels.

During the past 10 years the medical center has reduced its energy usage almost 38 percent per square foot, with a goal of a further 30-percent reduction by 2021.

After the UT System issued a sustainability requirement in 2009, the medical center formed a sustainability steering committee comprising of administrators, faculty, staff and students who developed a policy aimed at incorporating sustainability procedures in all areas.

Paper, boxboard, envelopes, newspapers, magazines, file folders, and all beverage and plastic containers were incorporated into the recycling system with a goal of reducing the amount of trash leaving the medical center by 10 percent. Tall blue bins were placed across the campus to collect mixed recyclable materials.

To ensure the recycling program’s success, UT Southwestern created the Green Champion program. Green Champions are designated people within each department, floor, laboratory or shift who focus on the medical center’s recycling practices. In addition to promoting the recycling program, champions monitor the recycling needs of their specific areas.

“Green Champions are the leaders in our effort to conserve resources and recycle materials on campus,” said John Roan, executive vice president for business affairs and chair of the sustainability committee. “We all want and need to be better stewards of the environment and, as an educational institution, we should demonstrate to the community ways to achieve that goal.”

Carpooling provides another way for employees to reduce their carbon footprint.

Parking Services offers employees an online opportunity to be matched with colleagues who live in the same neighborhood and are interested in carpooling. Enhanced parking privileges are provided. UT Southwestern also offers employees discounted yearlong passes for DART trains and buses.

Related Content

The new University Hospital will be designed to comply with the LEED “Certified” level, meeting these criteria:

  • Sustainable sites – Site selection, i.e. reuse of a previously developed site; access to alternate or public transportation, in this case provided by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART); alternate transportation and bicycle storage, and changing rooms; and reduction of “heat island effect” through light-colored roof and nonroof areas at site and in parking areas.
  • Water efficiency – Reduce landscape water usage by 50 percent via xeriscape and water-efficient planting.
  • Energy and atmosphere – Improve energy performance of heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems by 14 percent over typical buildings of this size; “enhanced” building commissioning, by which the completed project will be evaluated in detail; “enhanced” refrigerant management, i.e. use of refrigerants that do not harm the atmosphere; and measurement and verification to validate that the completed project conforms to energy-efficient design and energy credits from firms that provide alternate energy to the grid system.
  • Materials and resources – Recycle or salvage 75 percent of construction waste products and incorporate 20 percent of recycled content into the new building construction.
  • Indoor environmental quality – Outdoor air delivery monitoring to verify that the outdoor air does not introduce pollution into the indoors; managing indoor air quality during construction to verify that no deleterious products are introduced during construction; and use of low “volatile organic compound” (VOC) adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings in the construction.
The builders also will plant nearly 500 trees on the hospital grounds.