September 15, 2003

Emory gets energized about conservation

John Wegner

One of the commitments in Emory’s Environmental Mission Statement, passed by the University Senate in March 2001, is to conserve natural resources. As the newly appointed campus environmental officer charged with implementing the environmental mission statement, my first major endeavor will be to establish a comprehensive energy strategy.

The recent blackout in the Northeast has refocused our attention on our use and dependence on electricity. Emory already is a leader in energy-use reduction. Let me briefly outline four of our areas of success that will contribute to a comprehensive energy strategy.

First, the University has very high design and construction standards that help reduce energy use in new buildings. For example, all new exit signs use LED lights; the LED lamp uses two watts per fixture, whereas the old fixtures used a 40-watt incandescent light. Also, all new fluorescent fixtures have T-8 lamps and use electronic ballasts. These save 40 percent in electricity over conventional T-12 fixtures. Yet another example is the motion sensors in offices and classrooms that control lighting systems; when a room is not occupied for a period of time, the lights turn off automatically.

Second, new construction and renovations use the guiding principles of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system. Among other environmental considerations, LEED looks for ways to minimize energy use in the operation of a building.

For instance, projected energy savings for the Whitehead Building, the first LEED Silver certified building in the Southeast, are projected to be greater than 20 percent. This building incorporates a “heat wheel” to minimize heating and cooling costs. Other energy saving devices include an automated cage washer that recycles hot water, use of day lighting in laboratories and offices, and photo sensors in fluorescent lights to control light levels.

As Peggy Barlett, professor of anthropology, reported in the Aug. 25 Emory Report, the Energy Conservation Project was successful in reducing energy use by as much as 8.5 percent in 10 buildings in Emory College. The project’s objectives are to educate faculty, staff and students about ways to reduce energy use—and to get people to act on that knowledge. The project is beginning its second year, with the goal of continuing to reduce energy use within the college.

As part of the Piedmont Project in 2002, Oxford Dean of Academic Affairs Kent Linville committed to take on an environmental initiative on Emory’s mother campus. When faced with a three-inch stack of utility bills, Linville knew what to do; he brought together people from across campus to form an energy task force soon to be named CORE (Conserve Oxford Resources and Energy).

The task force has spent the last several months assessing energy use and is in the initial stages of developing an energy plan. The plan will use a two-pronged approach: First, it looks for ways to retrofit buildings with equipment that helps conserve electricity. These solutions can be as simple as installing an ultraviolet film on the windows or installing motion sensors to lights. The plan’s other component is to change student, staff and faculty use of energy through education—teaching them about the connection between energy use and the production of greenhouse gases, for example, or encouraging them to turn off lights and computers.

With these strengths to build on, I am sure we can develop a strong and innovative energy strategy for Emory. (If you would like to participate in the development of the strategy, please contact me at

For more information on how sustainability can be incorporated into campuses, join us for a telecast on Sustainability in Higher Education, to be held Thursday, Oct. 9, from noon to 2 p.m. in E208 Math & Science Center.