Sustainability upgrades to cost $6 million

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Decades-old systems, like the 550-ton chiller in Gelman Library, will be replaced this year to help GW reach its sustainability goals.

GW will spend almost $6 million to update water and electrical systems in buildings around University Yard this year.

The upgrades are part of a years-long sustainability effort to eventually slice millions from the University’s utilities bill. This year’s upgrades have cost about $11 million so far in total.

In addition to upgrading the buildings, the University’s facilities team will replace Gelman Library’s decades-old chiller, which broke during a heat wave last spring, and replace out-of-date systems across campus with motion sensor lights, motors, low-flow toilets, eco-friendly power strips and monitored air conditioning controls.

Shannon Ross, a coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said this year’s $5.8 million will be paid back in GW’s coffers within six to seven years.

The sustainability office has also touted the plan’s sustainability benefits, helping the University close in on its lofty goals like cutting carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2025. GW made Sierra Club’s list of top 25 most sustainable universities this year – a big jump after being one of the least energy-conscious five years ago.

The first phase of the eco building plan, which retrofitted Lisner Auditorium, Gelman Library and other buildings along H St. for about $5.3 million, was completed this summer. The final phase will start next year and will target another block of campus.

The program was born out of the Innovation Task Force, a committee that finds ways to cut costs and boost revenues across GW’s departments. The University expects to save about $10 million in energy costs over the next decade, according to the University’s strategic plan approved last May.

University President Steven Knapp convened a task force on sustainability after he arrived at GW in 2007. Since then, the Office of Sustainability has set out to reduce GW’s footprint on its Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses.

The office is also working on increasing the amount of solar panels that are used on campus buildings to further decrease its carbon footprint and electric bill.

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