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Posts Tagged ‘climate neutrality’

By Howard Wertheimer, Director, Capital Planning & Space Management, Georgia Institute of Technology
(This article appears in the November, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerGeorgia Tech is committed to the development of a sustainable campus community, creating distinctive architecture and open spaces. In keeping with this goal, Georgia Tech has a clear mission for its new Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory Building: carbon neutral net zero site energy use. The 40,000 square foot facility is intended to set a new standard for sustainable design for laboratory buildings of this type by optimizing passive energy technologies, reducing electricity loads, thoughtful day-lighting strategies, water conservation and harvesting, and maximizing the use of renewable energy, including a 290kW photovoltaic array.

Rendition of GT’s Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory

The building will be anchored by Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute and will house a variety of energy research programs requiring large scale (high-bay) and intermediate scale (mid-bay) capabilities, and the design is intended to express its mission simply, directly and honestly; a “no frills” design. The building took advantage of innovative planning models that go beyond flexibility and adaptability, introducing the mid-bay laboratory concept for large-scale equipment that requires slab-on-grade space, without the necessity of a 30’ tall high bay.  The building also challenged conventional energy use assumptions, and developed the energy model based on a net-zero energy approach. Through analyses of contemporary carbon neutral buildings, establishing a working definition of net zero site energy use, incorporating baseline energy modeling and studying simple pre- industrial structures, the design team created a series of four alternative building concepts. These were evaluated through energy-modeling to determine which options and which energy-savings features to pursue.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded the Georgia Tech Research Corporation $11.6 million to construct the Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory (C-NES). As one of 12 recipients of the NIST award, the project has a total budget of $24.6 million. The balance of the project was financed through GT Facilities Inc., a 501c3 affiliate partner of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The project has already received national recognitions, with awards from the New Jersey AIA, the Georgia AIA, the Georgia chapter of the ASLA, and Southern Region of ENR’s Magazine for best Green Building.

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By Timothy P. White, Chancellor of University of California, Riverside and Chair of the ACUPCC Steering Committee
(This article appears in the July, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

Last month at the ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit graciously hosted by American University, we released a special 5th anniversary report titled CELEBRATING FIVE YEARS OF CLIMATE LEADERSHIP:  The Progress & Promise of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. This report shares the tremendous progress being made by the 677 signatories that make up the ACUPCC network. Congratulations for the remarkable progress to all involved. To share a few examples:
  • In the first 5 years the entire network has reduced gross greenhouse gas emission by 25%.  By 2022, they are projected to reduce over 50% of their gross emissions.  In contrast, world emissions have been growing 3% per year over that time, except in 2010 when it was a whopping 6%.
  • More than 30% of signatories have set a target climate neutrality date within 20 years.
  • About 200 signatory schools are offering 10,000 sustainability-focused courses.  60 schools offer professional development to all faculty for sustainability education
  • 156 signatory schools collectively are the third largest purchasers of renewable energy credits in the US – enough green power for 14,500 American households
  • 100 schools report receiving nearly $200 million in outside support because of their sustainability efforts
  • 110 schools report saving over $100 million as a result of climate action projects.

We are proud of these results.  This is unprecedented leadership by the ACUPCC network, and I both thank and congratulate you for your efforts.

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By Stephen Muzzy, Senior Associate, Second Nature
(This article appears in the June, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

The ACUPCC’s 5th year celebration also marks an important stage in the ongoing, unprecedented efforts of the network to publicly report on activities to eliminate operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to provide the education, research, and community engagement to enable the rest of society to do the same. Because of these tremendous efforts the ACUPCC Reporting System now includes 1585 GHG reports, 465 Climate Action Plans, and 240 Progress Reports on the Climate Action Plan! Public reporting by ACUPCC signatories demonstrates transparency and integrity for each institution’s commitment and contributes to the collective learning of the network and general public. The ACUPCC Reporting System also allows signatories to track, assess, and communicate progress to their campus community and beyond, demonstrating to prospective students, foundations, and potential private sector partners that their institution is serious and transparent about its commitment to climate change and sustainability. The individual efforts taken together are demonstrating impressive results and the growing impact of the network to prepare graduates and provide the necessary solutions for a sustainable future.

Making an Impact

The ACUPCC’s earliest signatories have had more than four years to assess, plan and begin implementing their Climate Action Plans allowing them to:

  • Build institutional capacity to foster career preparedness for their students through curriculum development
  • Secure funding for and from climate and sustainability efforts and;
  • Demonstrate leadership in institutional research and innovation

Preparedness

Understanding sustainability is requisite for career preparedness in the 21st century. ACUPCC institutions are employing a range of innovative approaches to ensure that climate and sustainability issues are incorporated into the educational experience of all students.  The 240 institutions that submitted a Progress Report on their Climate Action Plan to date have reported the following data:

Curriculum

  • 76,935 graduates covered by sustainability learning outcomes.
  • 175 signatories combine to offer 9,548 courses focused on sustainability
  • 112 require all students to have sustainability as a learning objective
  • 66 have offered professional development to all faculty in sustainability education.
  • 49 have included sustainability learning outcomes in institutional General Education Requirements.
  • 37 have included sustainability in fulfilling regional or state accreditation requirements.
  • 18 have included sustainability learning outcomes, tracks, or certificates in every academic major.

Research

  • 11,223 faculty members are engaged in sustainability research
  • 119 signatories have faculty engaged in sustainability research
  • 114 have a program to encourage student climate and/or sustainability research
  • 85 have a program to encourage faculty climate and or sustainability research
  • 67 have a policy that recognizes interdisciplinary research in faculty promotion and tenure.

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by Georges Dyer, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Georges DyerOver the past 20 years as nations, communities, businesses, schools, non-profits, and individuals have searched for innovative and effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – in attempts to minimize the negative impacts of climate disruptions – one of the most controversial methods to emerge has been carbon offsetting.

Most of us are familiar with the concept at this point – an organization pays for offset credits that can count against their own emissions inventory that they can’t or won’t avoid at that time for whatever reason.  The credits are generated from projects that reduce, avoid, or sequester emissions elsewhere.   Project types run the gambit from energy efficiency to renewable energy, landfill gas, tree planting, traffic-light optimization, fuel switching, and the list goes on.

At their best, investments in carbon offsets result in real, measurable, verified emissions reductions that would not have happened otherwise, and achieve a greater reduction in tons per dollar than would have occurred by investing in internal carbon reductions.  The emission reductions are permanent, the projects are transparent, raise awareness, and result in ancillary social and environmental benefits without negative side effects, and the credits are not double counted or resold.

At their worst, investments in fraudulent offset projects might generate no emissions reductions, introduce artificial drivers into the market, create confusion, and generate a counter-productive, false sense of satisfaction that dampens ongoing efforts to reduce internal emissions.

There have been scores of excellent efforts to promote offset quality, and to ensure that these investments are as close to their best as possible and never near their worst.  These include the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism, the Gold Standard, the Voluntary Carbon Standard, the Offset Quality Initiative, and many more.  I had the privilege of helping to bring a collective voice from leaders in the higher education community to this work by coordinating the development of the ACUPCC Voluntary Offset Protocol.

Regardless of quality, one thing these investments always do is internalize at least some portion of the true cost of greenhouse gas emissions. I believe this is a value attribute inherent to any offsets.  Sending a price signal – even if self-imposed – to your organization and departments within your organization can be a powerful driver of real emissions reductions.

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