by Lindsay Price
The environment is an increasingly pressing concern for many college students. The University of Tampa has been looking to find ways to make the campus more sustainable and to conserve resources. A few faculty members are leading these efforts, trying to brainstorm ways to make both future and current buildings greener.
Daniel Huber, professor of biology, is currently working with the administration to improve UT’s environmental impact. He believes the university has been progressive on environmental issues, but that there is always more that can be done in the future.
“One thing that UT could be doing more of is installing more solar energy capacity. We currently have a solar energy system installed on the roof of the Thompson Building on the west side of campus,” said Huber. “While this is great, the electricity it produces is a drop in the bucket compared to the university’s energy consumption. All new buildings should have solar systems built into the design.”
UT turned on a solar array at the Thompson Building this year, which currently generates around 80 kilowatts of power. Huber explained that solar arrays can be installed on any building with the roof structure to support them.
This renewable energy is another step toward eco-friendly, efficient energy on campus; a goal that UT has been working at for years. Most of UT’s new buildings have been LEED-certified, a process that signifies a commitment to lowering environmental impacts and increasing energy efficiency. UT also won the Outstanding Green Business Award in 2015 from the US Green Building Council Gulf Coast Chapter.
Huber reasoned that energy efficiency not only makes sense for the environment, but that it also saves money from operating expenses. Solar energy and renewable power were not the only things that he suggested could be done to optimize efficiency.
“Energy management systems are also key. There are systems to optimize where and when air conditioning and lighting are being used based on occupancy patterns in the buildings,” said Huber. “Replacing windows and making sure everything uses LED light bulbs are also important.”
According to Huber, water conservation should be an increasing focus, due to concerns over the amount of water drawn out of the Hillsborough County aquifer.
The campus can take steps to limit its environmental impact beyond just building design. One issue that the school has been looking to improve is the recycling program, which students can directly help to remedy.
Lori McRae, associate professor of biology, explained that recycling was an important priority that required students and the campus to take the initiative.
“Although some claim recycling is ‘dead’ in the U.S. in terms of the value of recyclable goods, we just had a visitor to campus who talked about continued recycling importance for three things: aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and clean, larger pieces of paper/cardboard,” said McRae. “I think UT could facilitate in-building recycling efforts better–hire extra facilities or housekeeping person, or maybe pay some student workers, who pick these things up from offices and dorm rooms.”
Recycling bins on campus are currently located outside of buildings and near the walkways.
Lindsay Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org