TAMIU's, ESL's green efforts paying off

April 27, 2012
| By: Aubrey Bloom

Texas A&M International University in Laredo celebrated its ongoing commitment to a "green" campus with its observance of Earth Week 2012 April 23-25.

TAMIU student clubs and organizations joined together to offer a broad spectrum of activities to underscore TAMIU's commitment to its Green Campus Initiative. And representatives from Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) Energy Systems Laboratory (ESL) were on hand as partners in the university's Green Campus Initiative.

Students participated in a naming contest for two new solar-powered golf carts and coordinated a guest panel discussion for a film they produced tracing the journey of trash to the Laredo landfill, among other Earth Week activities. Students hosted a fun "Hug-A-Tree" event, an on-campus paper recycling drive and the construction of a "tree" from recyclable materials.

Students were joined by Congressman Henry Cuellar (MBA '82), who secured $500,000 in federal funding in 2008 that helped to accelerate TAMIU's Green Campus Initiative. (Right: Juan J. Castillo, TAMIU VP for finance and administration, holds an oversized symbolic check for $634,322, TAMIU's accumulated energy savings using the Green Campus Initiative. Also pictured are from left to right, Malcolm Verdict, associate director, research engineer, and senior project manager for Continuous Commissioning® at the Energy Systems Laboratory; Castillo; Congressman Henry Cuellar; Dr. Ray Keck, TAMIU president.)

Congressman Cuellar said he was impressed with how TAMIU has realized the intent of the federal appropriation dollars.

"I fought to secure these federal dollars for TAMIU because I knew this funding would be in good hands at this visionary university as it works toward its important goal to convert to a green, energy-efficient campus. I'm impressed with the initiative undertaken here and believe it offers a local, state and national model that others should follow," Cuellar said.

TAMIU president Dr. Ray Keck said the university's green leadership is part of its investment in its campus and its students.

"Our TAMIU classrooms nurture the mind, but our environment nurtures our heart and soul. We've dedicated considerable research and resources to making that environment as green-focused as possible. By thinking green now, we are encouraging our students and graduates to think green for generations to come," Keck said.

Keck said the shining star of TAMIU's Campus Sustainability Initiative is its University Success Center (USC), constructed to LEEDS silver standards and which includes an active solar panel array.

"We're tremendously proud of the USC, which most are probably unaware is one of the area's leading examples of energy-efficient design and architecture. It's partly powered by solar panels on its west side and able to maintain a 17.5 percent energy optimization with an energy-star rated roof, double tinted windows, centralized hot water heater system and building construction featuring low-emitting materials.

"Its parking lot is made of white concrete which makes it cleaner and cooler. It also includes complimentary electric car-charging stations for those students who may drive electric, hybrid vehicles. We have bike racks for students and faculty traveling to campus on 'green' bicycles," Keck continued.

He noted that anyone can log on to the campus' web site and see a real-time monitor for the TAMIU Solar Array.

"The monitor provides emissions savings, a total power summary, current performance and cumulative results for the array 24-7," he said. The monitor is located at http://lg680.d.lighthousesolar.com/

The Green Campus Initiative is already paying off in a big way, Keck said, presenting an oversize symbolic check to Congressman Cuellar featuring the savings the University has realized.

"TAMIU has accumulated energy savings of $634,322, based on current energy rates, from its Continuous Commissioning® Green Campus initiative, which began in 2009. We've basically saved 1.3times the original federal appropriation dollars," he said.

Malcolm Verdict, associate director of the TEES Energy Systems Lab and Green Campus Initiative project manager, suggested in 2008 that Keck and TAMIU create a Green Team to assess their current environmental, renewable and energy management activities and define a path forward. The ESL researchers wrote a grant proposal to implement the recommendations of the TAMIU Green Team submit to Congressman Cuellar for $500,000 for a Green Campus Initiative, which was ultimately awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009.

Verdict said that for the past 28 months, ESL has provided engineering and renewable energy planning assistance consisting of identifying LEED design features for their new 60,000 ft2 Student Success Center; engineering design assistance for a 4 Kw Photovoltaic solar array and monitor for their new Student Success Center; optimized building energy use in all 15 campus buildings and central power plan; and documented energy savings of $634,000 the past 28 months as result of Continuous Commissioning® building improvement efforts.

"TAMIU, its leaders, students and staff are all setting an excellent example of energy, environment and renewal resources for the Laredo community and all the Texas A&M University campuses to follow," Verdict said.

The Green Campus Initiative can be seen throughout TAMIU.

In on campus housing, clubhouse lighting has been changed to lower energy usage lights and solar screens have been installed to reduce heat gain. Testing of screens at University Village is being undertaken to see if it should be extended to screen all housing rooms.

TAMIU Physical Plant director Richard Gentry said TAMIU has reduced utility expenses, improved air quality, reduced air, land and water impacts on environment and improved students' learning environments.

"TAMIU incorporates numerous eco-friendly practices into all its daily operations, including an automated irrigation control system, ongoing water conservation research, drought-tolerant vegetation, low-flow faucets, toilets and showerheads and active recycling of all paper, metal, cardboard, and plastic as well as batteries, lights, and phones. TAMIU is a 100 percent asbestos-free campus and maintains a no-smoking policy around buildings," Gentry explained.

"Among our recently added green initiatives is the collection of condensation through the University's air-conditioner system. By recapturing and reusing the collected condensation of the air-conditioning units on campus, about 1,000,000 gallons of water are collected and reused a year," he noted.

"As a community, we can all do something in our daily lives to reduce our impact on our environment. We lessen our carbon footprint on the world by conserving our resources on our campus. As an institution of learning, TAMIU wants to help create energy-conscious graduates. The university is committed to providing greener options for our students," Gentry continued.

TAMIU was a recent recipient of the Green Community Award presented by KGNS, the CW and Telemundo Laredo.

Natalia Rodríguez, president of the new TAMIU Green Club, said students have jumped on the "green" wagon at TAMIU. (See more photos on Facebook.)

"We have been lucky that there are many TAMIU students who are very passionate about recycling and making our campus and community a cleaner place. So far, we have purchased new recycling bins for TAMIU and we've worked on cleanup efforts for a local river. The TAMIU Green Club has plans to continue spreading awareness on campus, especially for our Earth Week. We encourage all students, faculty, and staff to join in our week-long observance," Rodríguez said.

Keck said the involvement of TAMIU's student body in TAMIU's green initiatives has been pivotal.

"Students have been not only vocal, but involved in this ongoing initiative. They've lead community cleanup efforts along the Rio Grande River and Slaughter Park. In March, some 250 TAMIU students participated in 'The Big Event,' our signature student volunteer event, and helped clean the Eistetter Park area, " he explained.

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