Skip to Main Content

Creating a Carbon-Neutral University

Green Initiatives Growing on Campus

Prof. Ziyad Salameh with the UMass Lowell all-electric car on display at the recent Electric Vehicle Summit and Workshop in Lowell.

By Geoffrey Douglas

For UMass Lowell, it’s becoming easy to be green. The University aims to be at the forefront of campuses embracing green technology.

“We have committed ourselves to President Clinton’s goal of making the United States carbon neutral by the year 2050,” says UMass Lowell Environmental Health and Safety Director Rich Lemoine. “The UMass system has signed on, and the Chancellor is totally committed.”

It is a multi-pronged initiative, says Lemoine, and is well under way. Among its most significant—and most visible—components will be the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roofs of four campus buildings: Costello Gym, and Dugan, Leitch and Bourgeois halls. The panels, which will be installed by local contractors and are expected to be in place by December, are being funded through a mix of state and federal grants and will save the University $40,000 a year in energy costs, according to Lemoine.

“These systems, which will be easily seen by both students and the general public, will give us a lot of visibility,” he says. “They are a key part of our clean-energy initiative. And they are enormously cost-efficient.”

Sub-Meters to Calculate Usage

A second, even more ambitious initiative will be the installation of sub-meters on buildings throughout the campus, which will allow the University to precisely track its energy use for all fuel types - electricity, oil, natural gas and water. This new measure, being funded through a $1.5 million state grant, is part of a larger, state-wide program to monitor energy usage across 17 million square feet of state-owned building space.

Once the meters are in place, building managers will be in a position to make immediate, informed adjustments to cut waste - with the anticipated savings then being applied to fill academic and other University needs. The new systems are schedule to be installed this fall, with the first data to be available in 10 to 12 months, says Lemoine.

“This is a major efficiency we’re undertaking here,” he says. “To be able to have every building on campus monitored through individual meters, then all that data fed to a central computer system - that’s going to enable us to gauge usage so precisely, for every building and every utility we use. Once that’s in place, there should be next to no waste at all.”

Electric, Hybrid Vehicles on the Move

Then there are the hybrid cars. Long a pioneer in the use of electric vehicles—their use on campus goes back as far as 2001—the University has now entered into an agreement with Chrysler for the use of two hybrid (electric and gas) Ram trucks, complete with plows, for three years. The vehicles, which will be used for student transportation as well as other University needs, are part of a Chrysler fleet of 200 prototype vehicles on which the company is seeking feedback prior to offering the consumer models for sale.

As part of the agreement—and as an added educational opportunity, says Lemoine—UMass Lowell engineering students will be working with Chrysler to help field-test the vehicles and submit data to the manufacturer. Delivery of the trucks is expected in mid-December.

Other energy-saving initiatives will include

  • an upgrade to the lighting system in Falmouth Hall this fall, with some 300 fixtures to be retrofitted with specialized bulbs and energy sensors and hung in hallways, classrooms, offices and restrooms;
  • the completion of the University’s five-year Green House Gas Emissions Study;
  • the upgrade or replacement of several 1950s-era boilers, pumps and heating units on North Campus;
  • the improvement of University walkways and pedestrian routes;
  • the expansion of the popular bike-share program; and
  • other measures, both ongoing and anticipated.

“By creating new efficiencies,” says Lemoine, “these measures combine to make UMass Lowell both greener and more environmentally sustainable, and at a significant savings in cost. It is a goal to which the Chancellor is totally committed to be a national leader in the drive toward carbon neutrality.”