By John Martin
When I was a grad student at Columbia University, I spent a lot of time holed up in the Loeb Library reading and writing papers, but I also spent a lot of something else—money. That degree was expensive! Ten years later, it’s a small consolation to know that some active members of the Columbia community are working to save the school some cash, while helping the environment in the process.
Columbia’s School of Social Work and Woodbridge Residence Hall are in the closing months of an all-out effort to reduce their energy use. These two buildings are among 245 nationwide participating in EPA’s second annual Battle of the Buildings, a competition that challenges commercial buildings to conserve energy and fight climate change.
The competition compares participating buildings’ “energy use intensity” (energy consumed relative to its size) in the 12-month period ending August 31st of this year to its EUI during the 12 months ending August 31st of 2010. Buildings that generate the largest percent reduction in their EUI move on to the next round in late July. The finalist that reduces its energy use the most will be recognized by EPA as the winner in November.
Commercial buildings account for 18% of the nation’s energy use and nearly 18% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted. By implementing such simple measures as installing occupancy sensing lights, performing regular maintenance on building equipment, and using EnergyStar products, building owners can reduce the amount of fossil fuels they consume, saving significant money in the process.
If either of these buildings at my Alma Mater wants to be crowned this year’s winner, they have their work cut out for them. Last year’s top building, Morrison Hall of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, reduced its energy use by 35.7%, besting just 11 other participants nationwide. As we enter the final summer stretch, here’s hoping the Columbia community keeps its cool, but in an energy efficient way. Go Lions!