Sustainability Initiative Under Way at SUNY Upstate

Conservation and energy cost reductions are goals along with reducing fossil fuel dependence and institutional carbon footprint.

In a move designed to save millions of dollars and conserve energy, SUNY Upstate Medical University has launched a sustainability initiative that will affect all areas of campus operations, from heating and cooling, building construction and renovations, to purchasing and waste management.

The move is endorsed by the State University of New York and the Office of the Governor that has set forth an executive order asking all state agencies to reduce energy consumption.

"Energy conservation isn't simply a trend, it's a sound business decision and it will benefit our campus, and the planet," said Gary Kittell, director of physical plant and a member of the newly minted Sustainability Task Force.

Upstate's New Heating & Air Conditioning Policy

SUNY Upstate's annual energy costs exceed $13 million annually. Reducing this bill is the focus of the university's new heating and air conditioning policy that is being implemented immediately. Reducing cooling and heating thresholds is one of the easiest energy-saving plans to implement, as there is little cost associated with its start-up, Kittell said. "This is something we can do immediately," he said. "It’s instant energy savings and it’s what many homeowners do when looking to save money."

The heating and air conditioning polices pertain to all office space in all university-owned facilities.

Patient care areas are exempt from the heating and air conditioning policy as are areas that house computers and other equipment with climate control specifications. Research areas where there are recognized regulatory guides or processes that require certain temperatures also will not be affected by this policy.

While the heating and air conditioning policies do not pertain to university offices located in leased facilities, employees working in these areas are strongly encouraged to implement the energy conservation suggestions outlined below.

"These policies attempt to balance sustainability, environmental concerns, cost-efficiency, common sense and customer service," Kittell said.

The heating policy calls for the university's facilities to be heated at 68 degrees during normal operational hours. Under this policy, indoor temperatures will most likely be between 66 and 70 degrees as heat also is produced from sunlight and equipment. During off-hours, temperatures may be allowed to drop to 55 degrees, though heating systems are expected to turn on before this limit is reached.

The air conditioning policy authorizes that the university's air-conditioned facilities will be cooled to 76 degrees during normal operational hours. Due to normal office use, temperatures in these locations may be somewhat higher than 76 degrees. During off-hours temperatures may rise above this level.

The heating and air conditioning polices are the first formal steps to be taken as part of the sustainability effort. Additional energy-saving and conservation efforts will be addressed as the initiative moves forward.

"Our success in this effort will largely come from the support of our employees and students," Kittell said. "We also welcome any ideas on other ways we can save energy."

The Education and Awareness sub-group of the Sustainability Task Force will develop mechanisms for staff and students to share their ideas.

Minimize Energy Usage

Some steps employees can take to minimize energy usage and maintain comfortable temperature levels in working places include:

  • Turn off unused and unneeded lights
  • Use natural lighting instead of electric lighting
  • Do not use halogen or incandescent fixtures, instead use CFBs or LEDs
  • Keep thermostats at 68 degrees in the winter
  • Keep windows and doors closed when your area is being heated or air conditioned
  • Use the economy mode or higher temperature settings on window air conditioners
  • When possible use outside air instead of window air conditioner
  • Keep computers, monitors and printers off unless in use. This is especially important when you leave at the end of the day or for the weekend since a computer that is in "screen saver" mode still consumes significant electricity
  • Enable power management "sleep mode" features on computers and other equipment

A special Web site on the sustainability initiative will be developed so the campus community can stay abreast of upcoming energy-saving proposals.

The Sustainability Task Force, which will oversee the implementation of the sustainability initiative, will report to the President through the Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance, Members of the task force in addition to Kittell are Steve Brady, senior vice president for administration and finance; Paul Seale, University Hospital chief operating officer; Eric Smith, assistant vice president of finance; Darryl Geddes, director of public and media relations; Deb Stehle, assistant vice president for strategic planning and management; Ron Westbrook, mechanical engineer; Mark Zeman, associate administrator for integrated materials management; and Joseph Smith, director of educational communications. Karen Hodge, Office of Finance and Management, will provide administrative support.