“To employ LEED standards in buildings on ECU’s campus is really going to be a way for ECU to lead by example. It’s the way that a number of institutions are going and ECU is part of that now,” said Erich Connell, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Construction Management. “It’s really a responsible way to grow in the future using energy and environmental design as the criteria.”
Like the university’s recycling program, building to LEED standards boasts a significant economic savings as well. According to Connell, a building’s construction costs represent a mere 10 percent of the total costs associated with the life of a building. The other 90 percent comes from operation costs, maintenance, and repairs. By nature, LEED buildings are much more efficient, which reduces operation costs, and they tend to be built better and with higher quality materials, reducing the need for as much maintenance and repairs. So while a LEED building might cost more to construct than a traditional building, the overall costs are lower.
The United States Green Building Council, which developed LEED standards, also sees potential health and community benefits to green building. According to the council, LEED buildings should provide healthier working and living environments and contribute to greater productivity and improved health and comfort. LEED standards also promote cleaner air and water, reduction of solid waste, minimized strain on local infrastructure, all of which contribute to overall quality of life.
Green means go
At a university the size of ECU, having greener transportation represents a tremendous opportunity to improve efficiencies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
By far, the university’s largest consumer of petroleum products is the ECU Student Transit Authority. The ECUSTA carries approximately 2.5 million passengers each year and operates more than 50,000 service hours, making it one of the top ten transit systems in the State of North Carolina. But it uses 220,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually to do it.
Wood Davidson and ECU's Student Transit Authority provide students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus with an environmentally friendly way to get around.
This year, ECUSTA has examined its routes and passenger usage statistics in an effort to operate more efficiently and reduce fuel consumption. North Carolina Senate Bill 2015 requires all state agencies to reduce petroleum consumption by 20 percent of 2004–2005 usage by January 1, 2010. Coupling ECUSTA’s usage with the nearly 100,000 gallons of gasoline the university uses in its fleet vehicles, the reduction is substantial. In order to meet the state mandate while still providing services to a growing student body, the university relies on advanced fuels.
“Since 2006 we’ve been fortunate enough to start using E10, which is a 10 percent blend of ethanol and gasoline, and a product that’s called B20, which is 20 percent biodiesel, in all of our buses,” said Wood Davidson, ECUSTA general manager. “So we are displacing 20 percent of the actual petroleum diesel by using a bio-blend.”
Electric vehicles are also helping ECU comply with the state mandate. A small fleet of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles represents the beginning of a useful fleet of non-fossil fueled vehicles. Currently six electric NEVs (neighborhood electric vehicles) are in operation on Main Campus, and 25 electric golf carts are being used at Health Sciences Campus to offset fossil fuel vehicle use. ECUSTA also operates one diesel-electric hybrid bus.
According to Tom Pohlman, environmental manager in the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, an NEV saves 100 gallons of gasoline and prevents one ton of greenhouse gasses from entering the atmosphere, for every 1,000 miles driven.
“Any time electric vehicles are used instead of fossil fuel vehicles, it makes a difference. The impact of this small beginning fleet is limited but as the fleet grows, the impact will become far greater,” he said.
Budget constraints have prohibited the university from purchasing more NEVs, but in the future one can expect to see more and more of them silently zipping around campus. Department vehicles driven fewer than 20 miles per day are good candidates for replacement with NEVs, but the cars’ 25 mph top speed and limited payload make them unsuitable for some applications on campus. Therefore ECU is emphasizing some low-tech solutions as well.
Due to the stop-and-go nature of their use, ECU’s facility trucks average a poor 10 miles per gallon. By assigning two workers to each truck when possible, and by stocking them with commonly used parts and tools, the university can reduce the number of inefficient vehicles on the road, and effectively improve efficiency.