UNTHSC amps up its sustainability

The UNT Health Science Center campus is merry and bright with 17,700 tiny white LED lights adorning 21 trees.

The campus’ holiday lights, decking the trees along Camp Bowie Boulevard and Montgomery Street, are new this year, said Electrical Foreman Fred McHugh. "We want UNTHSC to be a beacon of light for our community," he said.

The project fits well with UNTHSC’s ramped-up sustainability program. The 354 strands of lights total the length of 20 football fields but they’re 85 percent more efficient than traditional incandescents. A traditional bulb is 0.5 watts, but an LED just 0.069 watts, McHugh said. It will cost $46 to operate the tree lights for 45 days, versus $334 if they were incandescent, he said.

The Health Science Center is going green, and not just for Christmas. The recently created Office of Sustainability is giving free reusable water bottles to all UNTHSC faculty, staff and students who take an online Sustainability Pledge. The pledge encourages the UNTHSC community to take actions to enhance our sustainability efforts such as lowering energy and water consumption. (Did you know that Americans throw away — not recycle — about 2.6 billion 1-liter plastic water bottles each year, according to the Container Recycling Institute?)

In less than three weeks more than 550 people have taken the Pledge, and more are signing on every day, said Sustainability Coordinator Sandy Bauman, MS, MPA.

The water bottles can be refilled anywhere, including water-bottle "filling stations" recently installed in several campus buildings. The stations fill the 20-ounce bottle in about seven seconds and also are equipped as conventional drinking fountains.

The water is filtered for better taste and activated by a touchless sensor, supporting good hygiene since hands don’t touch the surfaces. A digital meter shows how many plastic bottles have been spared at each station.

UNTHSC has been getting steadily greener for years. The Medical Education and Training (MET) Building, opened in 2010, is LEED Gold. Compared to a similar building of the same size that’s not LEED, the MET saves about 250,000 gallons of water and $55,000 in energy costs per year.

In 2011 the UNTHSC campus recycled 233 tons of cardboard, paper, plastic, aluminum and glass, saving nearly 3,000 mature trees and enough electricity to power more than 80 homes for a year. Buildings’ retrofits, such as installation of new energy-saving windows, have saved the equivalent of 59,000 trees and 241,000 gallons of gasoline, with an investment of $8.6 million that will pay for itself in about 10 years.

Additionally, construction is under way on a new two-acre Library Courtyard with a conservation-minded water feature and more than 100 new trees. The height of the fountains on the "splash block" can be adjusted for the weather.  The project is scheduled to be complete in spring 2013.

To make way for the courtyard, two obsolete buildings were removed. Seventy-five percent of the demolition debris was recycled, including concrete, asphalt, copper, steel, tin and wire.

Additional sustainability initiatives under development on campus include:

  • "Green" office certification
  • Earth Day event for April 2013
  • Feasibility study on participation in STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. UNTHSC is a member of AASHE
  • Pilot project to recycle ink cartridges and batteries

Check the Office of Sustainability’s Facebook page and website for more news.

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