Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DU takes its temperature for cleaner air

Global warming may be coming to your classroom or office this summer.

In a bid to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the University of Denver this summer will cut back on air conditioning. Facilities management expects to boost the temperatures in centrally controlled buildings by about four degrees to an average room temperature of 76 degrees, says Tom McGee, DU’s energy engineer.

The goal isn’t to make people uncomfortable; it’s to make a small sacrifice that will help DU keep 162 tons of carbon dioxide out of the environment during Denver’s hottest months.

McGee says temperatures can be adjusted in DU’s newer buildings, such as the Ricketson Law Building, the Daniels College of Business, Sturm Hall and others. Faculty and staff are urged to cut back on air conditioning in older buildings that have independently controlled window conditioners.

“We’re really just cutting back a little bit, but spread across the whole campus, it can make a significant difference,” McGee says.

The changes are being implemented carefully with consideration for such things as the ice in the Ritchie Center or the instruments stored in the Newman Center.

The DU move mirrors the Cool Biz initiative supported this summer by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. The summer program aims to cut energy use in city and state government office buildings by reducing air conditioning use. The mayor and governor are asking local businesses and institutions to join the effort.

McGee says joining the government program makes sense. Air conditioners gobble up nearly 17 percent of U.S. electricity and on hot summer days, they can account for as much as 43 percent of all U.S. peak power, he says.

Craig Woody, vice chancellor for business and financial affairs and a member of the DU Sustainability Council, says the summertime changes reflect DU’s commitment to community and global efforts to stem greenhouse gas emissions.

“What we’re doing here will continue to reduce our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas inventory, and that’s important for the environment,” Woody says. “And when you cut back on air conditioning, you reduce consumption of kilowatt hours, and that translates into real dollar savings. Those savings can then be made available for more infrastructure improvements to further reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Woody says DU’s senior administration understands faculty and staff need to be comfortable during the workday, and relaxed dress codes throughout the summer will help. Unless someone is expected to attend a formal meeting, jackets and ties and other restrictive clothing can find a home on the coat rack.

McGee says other things the campus community can do include closing shades or blinds in summer months to reduce solar heating, turning off unused lights and shutting down computer monitors at night. Whole groups of electronics, which draw power even when not in use, can be linked to a single power strip that can be turned off at the workday’s end, he says.

“Even when they’re not in use, those items draw power and generate a little bit of heat,” he says. “Multiply that by hundreds of computers, and it can add up. Everything we can do will make a difference.”

Comments are closed.