Partner Spotlight: University of Virginia’s Office for Sustainability

April 16, 2018

Partner Spotlight: University of Virginia’s Office for Sustainability

Virginia Energy Sense interviewed the University of Virginia (UVA)’s Office for Sustainability’s Nina Morris to discuss how her office is playing a role in encouraging energy efficiency and environmental stewardship on campus.

What is your role in the organization?

I am the Sustainability Program Manager for Outreach, Engagement and Communications with the Office for Sustainability. I manage UVA Sustainability’s communications and marketing (website, newsletters, graphics, social media etc.), as well as managing our Green Labs Program, Green Workplace Program, the Sustainability Student Employee Program, the Sustainability Advocates Program and over 80 sustainability events such as UVA’s Earth Week and Energize UVA. I also am the co-chair of the Civic Engagement Subcommittee with UVA’s Committee on Sustainability, which works to expand the definition of sustainability and build partnerships throughout UVA and our surrounding communities. We manage a $40,000 fund for student projects that explore the intersections of the environment and equity, host major events and manage the UVA Sustainability Award, amongst other projects.

Please provide a short summary of what UVA’s Office for Sustainability is and the work it does.

The mission of UVA’s Office for Sustainability is “to engage our communities, steward resources, and discover ways to improve Grounds and beyond for generations to come.” We advance our mission through three major avenues: collaboratively setting the strategic sustainability direction, embedding sustainable practices throughout the building and operations of UVA’s footprint and building a sustainable culture and literacy through strategic communications and engagement programs. Below are the main approaches the Office for Sustainability pursues to achieve our mission:

Advocacy, Innovation and Leadership

Partner with University committees and stakeholders in collaborative sustainability strategic planning and implementation; assist with recommendations on sustainability policy, commitments, goals, action plans, and measuring progress towards goals; seek to promote stewardship of resources, reduce environmental footprint; and build UVA’s reputation as a leader by prioritizing cost-effective, impactful and replicable models and connecting initiatives and programs across Grounds.

Academic and Research Integration

Support the integration of sustainability into curriculum to train current and future leaders, advance sustainability research and help build capacity to use Grounds as a living laboratory for sustainability.

Environmental Stewardship

Provide leadership for the integration of sustainability into buildings and operations to advance environmental stewardship while regularly measuring and analyzing progress towards goals.

Technical Expertise

Act as subject matter experts and advocates for sustainability via proactive advocacy, implementation, review and development of buildings, infrastructure and operations.

Outreach and Engagement

Foster a culture of sustainability through close collaboration, partnership-building, training and support of student, faculty and staff sustainability interests and initiatives to build social and operational norms around sustainability.

Communication and Knowledge Management

Advance sustainability knowledge, build identity and enhance leadership by developing and sharing timely and robust news, best practices, lessons learned, benchmarking, data, educational resources and tools in a clear and cohesive manner.

For more information, visit: https://sustainability.virginia.edu/about/office/index.html

How is UVA’s Office for Sustainability helping the Commonwealth meet its goal of reducing energy consumption?

UVA has been committed to leadership in sustainability for nearly thirty years, most notably with extensive recycling and water conservation programs first established in the 1990s and energy conservation initiatives beginning in the 2000s. Beginning in 2008, with the establishment of the University Committee on Sustainability, this effort reached a new strategic focus and breadth which included the ratification of the Board of Visitor’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal (25% below 2009 levels by 2025 ) in 2011 and a nitrogen reduction goal (25% below 2010 levels by 2025) in 2013. Additionally in 2013, the University signed on to the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, committing to reduce building energy use intensity by 20% below 2010 levels by 2022. UVA recently released its first action plan, the GHG Action Plan, to identify the key strategies to meet UVA’s GHG reduction goal, which includes extensive energy conservation strategies.

A major strategy for reducing energy consumption at UVA is the Office for Sustainability’s Delta Force Program for existing buildings. Delta Force strategically invests resources in high energy intensity building systems to facilitate energy and cost savings through retro-commissioning and other energy conservation measures, using in-house energy engineers and technicians. From 2008 to 2016, almost $10.3 million has been invested in Delta Force projects. In 2016 alone, Delta Force helped avoid 216,112 MMBtu of energy and $5 million in utility costs. With avoided utility costs to date of nearly $25 million over the past 9 years, Delta Force has seen a simple return on investment ratio of 2.4:1.

UVA recently launched its first set of Green Building Standards, including prescriptive and process-oriented requirements to reduce the environmental impacts of capital projects and renovations, and launched a new Green Labs program to optimize energy-intensive labs across UVA.

To help empower building occupants to reduce their energy consumption, UVA launched the UVA Building Performance Energy & Water Tracker to provide real-time data on building energy use and share energy saving tips.

In addition to building efficiency innovations, UVA continues to expand its portfolio of renewable energy generation through rooftop solar installations and off-site utility-scale solar power purchase agreements. To date, UVA owns 141 kW of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays installed on campus, with more currently in progress. UVA also leases roof space to Dominion Energy on two buildings, with a combined 364 kW solar PV array. Additionally, under a 25-year agreement, the University will purchase the entire output of two proposed utility-scale solar facilities in Virginia, expected to be complete by the end of 2018. In total, the two sites will have a capacity of 32 MW of solar energy and will offset about 21 percent of the University’s electric demand. To effectively communicate UVA’s renewable energy activities on-grounds, UVA launched the Renewable Energy Tracker website, a real-time online dashboard of UVA’s solar endeavors and resources.

UVA

What are some ways in which your organization is encouraging environmental stewardship around Earth Day/Earth Week? Is the Office for Sustainability doing any events or campaigns that tie into it?

The Office for Sustainability and its partners are organizing the 9th annual Earth Week, themed this year as People, Planet, Progress. Earth Week is a UVA tradition that celebrates the planet we all share and the people we share it with. Students, faculty, staff, and community members are all invited to take part in any of the 25+ events happening April 16-22.  During Earth Week, we encourage attendees to connect with fellow community members who are leading the way to reverse climate change, explore Charlottesville’s beautiful natural resources, learn how to advance social and environmental sustainability, and much more.

For the full schedule and event descriptions, visit sustainability.virginia.edu

Monday, 4/16 – Earth Week Farmers Market, 12-4pm, Central Grounds Amphitheater

Tuesday, 4/17 – Earth Week Expo: 100 Climate Solutions, 11am-2pm, Newcomb Ballroom

Wednesday, 4/18 – Intersectional Sustainability Lunch & Learn, 12-1pm, Newcomb Kaleidoscope Room

Thursday, 4/19 – SustainaPitch Night, 6:00-7:30pm, Rotunda Multipurpose Room

Friday, 4/20 – Clothing Swap, 11am-3pm, 1515 University Avenue

Saturday, 4/21 – Reservoir Tour & Trek, 1-5pm, Ragged Mountain Reservoir

Sunday, 4/22 – Cville Eco-Fair, 11am-4pm, IX Art Park

Throughout the week, follow us on social media and tag us from the events @SustainableUVA #UVAEarthWeek #OneHellUVAPlanet.

Partner Spotlight: University of Virginia’s Office for Sustainability