UIC lauded for sustainability efforts

Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award

Vy Milunas (from left), director of project management; Cynthia Klein-Banai, associate chancellor for sustainability; and Office of Sustainability program coordinators Lisa Sanzenbacher and Kate Yoshida accept the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award.

University leaders, staff and students were applauded for UIC’s sustainability achievements with recognition for environmentally friendly and campus-wide initiatives.

UIC won the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award for the fifth time Nov. 1, as well as two awards for outstanding energy efficiency achievements at the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge Awards Nov. 16. The League of American Bicyclists recognized UIC with a silver Bicycle Friendly University award Nov. 29.

The Governor’s Sustainability Award honors groups for their commitment to innovative, sustainable practices. Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Building Initiative is a voluntary program where participants commit to reducing energy consumption in their buildings by 20 percent within three years. The Bicycle Friendly University award honors bike-friendly campuses that make bicycling an easy, safe and convenient method of transportation.

The university’s application for the Governor’s award, the nation’s oldest state award for sustainable businesses, was among 25 winning entries.

A collaboration between the Office of Sustainability’s biking club, called the College of Cycling, and the Food Recovery Network was one project included in the award application. Throughout the school year, the student-run biking club takes uneaten food from UIC Dining Services to Pacific Garden Mission, a homeless shelter. The group delivered more than 1,500 meals to the shelter last year.

A newly renovated learning center was part of the application, too. Housed in three floors of the College of Medicine West Tower, the center’s learning spaces, auditoriums and classrooms were retrofitted; the space is expected to save $8,000 worth of energy per year. A new heat recovery system, with a 70 percent efficiency rate, will save 15,900 therms of natural gas and 3,100 kilowatt hours of electricity each year.

Projects led by the utilities department were also mentioned. An energy efficient boiler is expected to save approximately 400,000 therms of natural gas annually. Pipe repairs to fix water leaks and a new heat exchanger, a chemical treatment process for heating water, could save more than 2.5 million gallons of water each year.

Bikes at a Divvy station

UIC has 15 Divvy bike stations across campus. (Photo: S.K. Vemmer)

Energy efficiency projects in Science and Engineering South, Engineering Research Facility and Science and Engineering Offices are expected to reduce gas emissions by 19,000 metric tons each year, too.

The initiatives “show the diversity of what we’re doing around sustainability,” said Cynthia Klein-Banai, associate chancellor for sustainability.

UIC is the only institution to win two of the Mayor’s Leadership Circle awards for the Retrofit Challenge. Buildings that won plaques included Science and Engineering South, which achieved a 28 percent energy reduction, and the Science and Engineering Laboratories East and West, which had a 38 percent energy reduction.

Many of the retrofits for the science and engineering facilities were completed with the energy savings company Ameresco, Inc.

Improvements feature state-of-the-art systems or technology, said Waleed D’Kidek, superintendent of utilities.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls; air handling units; lighting; fume hoods; chilled beam systems; plumbing fixtures; and exhaust systems were upgraded, installed or replaced. Energy recovery systems were also re-commissioned and improvements to building envelopes were made.

“We’re saving energy and the environment at the same time,” D’Kidek said.

The green initiatives foster a fun and healthy campus culture, too.

The bike award recognizes UIC’s attempts to make bicycling an easy mode of transportation. UIC won a bronze award in 2013. Bike rack additions for bike parking, bike-sharing systems and discounted Divvy memberships have increased the accessibility and use of bicycles on campus; 15 Divvy docking stations are housed on or near UIC.

For the past two years, Campus Parking has promoted the Bike Safety Quiz, an interactive tool created by the nonprofit Ride Illinois that teaches bicyclists and motorists how to safely share roads. UIC has supported existing bicycle encouragement and educational programs, such as Women Bike Chicago, Active Transportation and the League of American Bicyclists.

The campus joins 160 Bicycle Friendly Universities across the nation.

All of the awards align with UIC’s Climate Commitments: to make the university a carbon neutral, zero waste, net zero water and biodiverse campus.

“These are not projects that the office of sustainability did alone, and we’d like to thank all of the people who were involved in implementing the projects,” Klein-Banai said.