University begins renovations to save $41 million in energy costs

By Samuel Cheung

By Samuel Cheung

Contributing Writer

Students that have a physics class at Loomis Laboratory or happen to pass by the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory may have seen some hard hats hard at work.

According to a recent press release by the Facilities and Services, Loomis and four other College of Engineering facilities are getting a energy efficiency upgrade in the hopes of reducing energy costs by more than $41 million over the next 20 years.

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The construction is the first step of a long-term plan that includes upgrading 23 facilities under a Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) model implemented by the service company Energy Systems Group.

Loomis Laboratory, the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, Seitz Materials Research Laboratory, Engineering Sciences Building and the Superconductivity Center are the first five buildings slated for the most recent round of upgrades. But, they are not the first to be updated to the EPC model.

“Because of the success of the Vet Med and Oak Street facility improvement projects back in 2009 and 2011, we developed a long term plan to address 23 buildings,” said Josh Whitson, an engineering specialist at Facilities and Services (F&S).

If the University does not save $41 million, the Energy Systems group has guaranteed it will cover the cost, said Whiston.

“If we [the University] are not meeting what was agreed upon they will reimburse the university for any shortfalls,” Whitson said.

Many of the upgrades involve replacing laboratory equipment that may be out of date. The equipment includes heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment, direct digital controls, fume hoods, heat recovery systems and occupancy sensors throughout the buildings.

Despite the construction and updates, F&S plans to keep students and faculty informed of any changes in the construction schedule.

“We will keep students informed through signs, posters and email so that there are no surprises,” Whitson said.

F&S handles a wide variety of services at the University, including renovation and maintenance projects.

“(F&S has) divisions that include utilities and energy services, capital program, safety and compliance, operation maintenance and alteration, waste management and custodial,” Steven Breitweiser, F&S manager of communications and external relations, said.

According to a press release, F&S plans to partner with Engineering at Illinois to finish the project, which is expected to be substantially completed by July 2018.

“The energy conservation measures will bring the College of Engineering one step closer to our sustainability goals,” said Greg Larson, director of facilities management for the College of Engineering, in the release. “Annually, we’ll save approximately 9.5 million gallons of process water that supports our research activities and equipment cooling.”