Updated: Oct 5, 2020
This month’s Sustainability Hero Spotlight shines some light on the behind-the-scenes work being done by the Auraria Higher Education Center’s (AHEC) Facilities and Trades teams to improve energy and water efficiency across campus. As many of you probably know, AHEC oversees maintenance and operations for all buildings shared by the three academic institutions on campus (think Custodial Operations, Grounds, Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC, etc.). This summer, the Trades Team at AHEC took advantage of a quieter campus and worked together to upgrade campus water heaters on the Administration Building and proactively identified a prime opportunity to upgrade to high efficiency lighting fixtures in the Arts Building corridors! Meanwhile, the AHEC Grounds Team stepped up to meet challenges posed by COVID-19 and an aging irrigation system.
Instead of contracting this work out, the AHEC Plumbing Team stepped up to take on a water heater upgrade in-house. Nick Makowski, Tom Johnson, Ramon Vidal and Tom Reiter of the AHEC Plumbing Team (pictured below) were able to save the Auraria Campus over $45,000, leaving AHEC with a little more money to invest in other deferred maintenance projects! The water heaters on Auraria’s Administration Building were at the end of their useful life, and were upgraded from 80% efficiency heaters to 95% efficiency heaters, thus using less natural gas to heat our water. As a part of this upgrade, the Plumbing Team also installed electronic tempering valves, further improving the efficiency of the system. These valves maintain water temperature in the storage tank around 140 degrees, preventing excess burning of natural gas that the water heaters would use if they were constantly cycling on and off to re-heat the water. Finally, the Plumbing Team took care to add high efficiency pumps and aquastats, both of which save energy – the aquastats sense water temperatures and only turn on the re-circulation pump when needed, therefore reducing the need for the pump to run continuously!
During this summer’s campus conversion from steam to natural gas, the AHEC Facilities Team capitalized on an opportunity to improve the sustainability of the Arts Building. Recognizing that they had to rip out the ceiling tiles in the building’s corridor to replace piping, they decided to tie in a lighting upgrade as well. The corridors in the Arts Building will be updated to LEDs this fall, improving the building experience, as well as notably reducing the building’s electricity consumption as LEDs consume a fraction of the energy used to power a CFL or incandescent bulb and have a longer life span.
Matt Carlson, Aaron Wadkins and the entire AHEC Grounds Team also deserve a round of applause for their hard work this summer. Campus construction projects have been unknowingly boring holes in irrigation lines, causing a series of leaks that the Grounds Team has to rush to address. An aging irrigation system, which has unfortunately been declined for state funding, means that the Grounds Team has to manually run irrigation in the middle of the day in order to get the grounds watered and identify leaks. On top of all of this, due to COVID-19 closures they lost their additional student staff and saw an uptick in trash generation and human waste near the Colfax light rail station. They have remained steady and humble despite these added challenges and are working together with the ASCP and the One World One Water Center on a grant application to purchase new irrigation controllers! New controllers would help automate and centralize campus irrigation controls, alleviating the need to manually turn water on and off during the day and allowing for watering during more efficient summer hours. These controllers are being piloted in the 9th Street park – stop by to see it in action!
It’s easy to overlook the small efficiency tweaks that go on behind-the-scenes, but these are the tangible projects that add up to reduce our ecological footprint. Thank you, AHEC Facilities, for working to improve the efficiency of our buildings and grounds!