This university is committed to being “green”, but at night, buildings across Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB) are often more of a bright white. Late at night, when classrooms and hallways are deserted, a plethora of lights and televisions remain on. Noticing this, I decided to look into the school’s policies regarding electric power. I found out, however, that CSUMB is quite green, and becoming more Earth friendly every day.
To gain some insight into the school’s power situation I met with Mike Lerch, Associate Director of Facilities Services and Operations at CSUMB. From his office, which looks more like a command center, he gave me the skinny on our energy situation, and the great strides that have been made.
Since 2005, power consumption has gone down considerably due to retrofit projects, maintenance, and investments in the future, he explained. In 2007, President Dianne Harrison joined the President’s Climate Commitment, which dedicated CSUMB to reducing our carbon impact and eventually becoming completely climate neutral by 2030.
Lerch shared with me a plethora of successful projects that have drastically reduced the school’s power consumption. A light retrofitting project in 2006 alone brought lighting energy down from 336,000 Kwh/year to 174,000 Kwh/year. These gains, Lerch notes, are not easy on the school’s tight budget. He says they are always looking out for opportunities for funding such projects.
CSUMB has garnered multiple incentive awards from PG&E for conserving the natural gas and electricity used to heat and light campus buildings. According to Facilities Services & Operations, between 2005 and 2010 Main Campus energy use was reduced by 20 percent. Because of progress like this, The Princeton Review in its 2011 edition named CSUMB of the nation’s most environmentally responsible schools.
In 2008, the Tanimura and Antle Family Memorial Library opened on the campus of Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB). It was, and still is, the largest building on the school’s campus. It is also recognized as being especially “green.” Along with the Dining Commons, it is the second building on campus to be awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification. The building uses 30 percent less energy because of smart innovations like extensive glass walls that let in natural light.
A year after the library opened, in 2010, a large solar power generation facility was completed on a vacant lot on the east side of Seventh Avenue. On average the solar panels meet about 16 percent of the school’s energy needs. According to Lerch, during some summer months the campus can operate solely on solar energy.
Considering all the progress, I asked Lerch why then, across campus, so many lights, televisions, and other appliances stay on 24 hours every day even when not in use. Lerch acknowledged that it was unfortunate, but said that the costs to remedy the situation outweigh the benefits. In many places, lights must remain on all the time for egress purposes, Lerch said. He told me that each room would need to be individually assessed, taking into account safety and practicality.
Oscar Diaz, junior, CST, said he doesn’t think students and faculty are very concerned about energy waste.
“There’s definitely a disconnect,” Diaz said. “Nobody feels obligated, or at least they don’t go out of their way, to turn off lights and appliances around campus.” Diaz said there should be a policy by which students and faculty can turn things off when not in use, but as of now he’s not sure if he’s even allowed to.
Though there is still much that can be done, and we have a while until our climate neutral goal date of 2030, CSUMB is no energy hog. Mike Lerch and the entire Facilities Services & Operations Department are working tirelessly to make our campus a shining example of conservation and innovation.