Western Sustainability Newsletter: Volume 1.1

[ Newsletter | PDF Version ]

The Energy Savings Company
Five Colleges, Four Goals
Western's Guardians
Graph: Total University eCO2 Emissions by Year

The Energy Savings Company


Facilities Management and the Office of Sustainability are actively preparing for and responding to new challenges in climate regulation, efficient technologies research, and applications for responsible and appropriate energy consumption.

A wide range of energy-saving strategies coexist on campus, and each strategy works to support the President's Climate Commitment and Western's Climate Action Plan. At present, Facilities Management is overseeing Western's investment in an Energy Savings Company called McKinstry, an independent contracting agency whose expertise is in energy conservation measures. McKinstry is working with Western to locate areas in the university's infrastructure that can achieve greater energy-conservation.

The three primary, interconnected goals of the ESCO project are to lower energy costs, minimize resource consumption, and neutralize Western's carbon footprint via reduced greenhouse gas emissions. "[Our] report is a foundation document" McKinstry wrote in their findings summary, a document "that will lead to utility efficiency and carbon footprint reduction." The construction project based on these findings is expected to begin in November 2011 and anticipated to end around December 2012. The funding for the project will be through a State Treasury loan and is expected to make investment returns in 10 to 12 years through energy and utility cost savings.

An Energy Savings Company, referred to as an ESCO, is a business strategy that emerged to meet investment needs during the energy crisis of the 1970s, usually as a small division of large company employed to isolate and mitigate total operational energy-related costs. Little has changed in the need for large-scale conservation strategies, though ESCO initiatives declined through the 1990s as national energy marketing policies underwent deregulation and cheap energy resources fattened America's economy.

In today's market we have renewed our focus on resource conservation, responsible stewardship, and reducing energy consumption—this time on a global scale. Western has been ahead of the national curve in efforts to curb energy consumption on an institustional level, as well as in extracurricular categories such as promoting alternative means of transportation, academic initiatives, and community education programs in sustainability.

On the campus, Facilities Management and the Office of Sustainability are playing an important role in maintaining Western's sustainable image and overall success as a conscious consumer, and each works diligently to uphold the university's priorities in resources stewardship.

The current project is unique because it is a multi-building investigation and campus-wide retrofitting project. Typically an ESCO is completed in a single building or for a specific issue within an industry's infrastructure.

In 2008, for example, Western commissioned an ESCO prior to completing the Buchanan Towers addition. In 2011, the university, following a Facilities Management initiative, is tackling the issue of energy conservation from a holistic view, incorporating many different aspects of resources conservation and strategies to reduce energy consumption into a single conservation initiative. Some of the retrofits that are in-progress include new HID and LED lighting in outdoor areas, energy efficient indoor lighting, improved insulation in attic spaces, reducing outside air circulation into unoccupied buildings, and installing CO2 sensors in lecture halls to monitor air conditioning. By installing these and other sustainable technologies, Facilities Management is estimating Western will save a little over $231,000 dollars annually. Additional revenue savings will be generated through rebates distributed by Puget Sound Energy when Western begins putting power back into the PSE power grid.

"Western will reinvest these rebates into continuous, self-sustaining conservation projects" said Facilities Management Director John Furman, who is excited about the direction Western is going in resource conservation.

Furman, along with Seth Vidaña, Campus Sustainability Manager, are consistently looking for new ways to conserve the university's budget through operations improvements. Large-scale operational strategies, such as an ESCO, represent a significant portion of Western's accomplishments in sustainable technology but are not long-term solutions on their own. Long-term resource conservation is achieved when individuals take accountability for personal energy use, using only what is needed when it is needed.


To facilitate conservation on a personal level, the Office of Sustainability launched the 10x12 Program in 2009, an initiative to promote carbon reduction through alternative use strategies for electricity, natural gas, and water. The "10 by 12" initiative hopes to reduce Western's baseline energy use at least 10 percent by the year 2012 through both facilities improvements and behavioral changes.

"WWU set an ambitious target" Vidaña said, "and we have been highly impressed with the campus response. The challenge has generated numerous creative solutions in the quest for efficiency, and linked faculty, staff and students together in the process." 10x12 is actively pursued in academic buildings across campus and is received with growing enthusiasm and participation by the Western community each year. Two years into the program and we have already reduced Western's energy use by 7 percent," Vidaña continued, "In the following year we may even exceed our 10 percent reduction goal."

With the cooperative efforts of individuals across campus Western is well on the way to a sustainable future, accomplishing the goals of the Climate Action Plan, and setting a standard of excellence for other institutions of higher learning both regionally and globally.

Five Colleges, Four Goals

Northwest Higher Education Sustainability Consortium: a long name, nice sounding words, but not a tongue-twister. It is actually a fairly simple educational design founded by five regional institutions of higher learning.

I'm willing to bet that you haven't heard of them, but your university is a charter member and the chair institution for the 2011-2012 academic year. What is more, this consortium is working on your behalf, and on behalf of the northwest Washington region, to improve education opportunities, connect individuals and organizations with similar sustainability goals, and serve sustainability research and projects in academics and industry.

Ready to get involved? NHESC is the Northwest's only inter-collegiate campus sustainability partnership, and that is something worth notice.


In no particular order, the Consortium partners are Skagit Valley Community College, Bellingham Technical College, Whatcom Community College, Northwest Indian College, and Western Washington University. These five institutions have defined a relationship within the context of four interconnected goals.

  • First, to facilitate communication and knowledge-sharing between the individual campuses and the communities they serve.
  • Second, NHESC promotes scholarship that helps to define sustainability issues for a diversified audience in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Thirdly, the Consortium makes introductions and mediates partnerships that advance sustainability.
  • Fourth and finally, through campaigns and drives, these member colleges work together to expand opportunities for sustainability development through skills training, resources provision, and organizing workshops for public education.

In 2009 the Consortium launched their pilot project with sponsorship from St. Joseph Peace Health. Students from three member campuses came together to research alternative power sources for the medical center. They were Erika Rednizak, a Western junior and self-design major through Huxley College of the Environment; Richard Bruno, a WCC two-year-degree student and future WWU transfer student; and Sheila McElhinney, a BTC civil engineering student and former Energy Conservation staff member for Puget Sound Energy. They began their research during the 2009 spring quarter and concluded at the end of summer session, examining opportunities for solar panels, a fuel-cell array, and a heat-and-power system. Other components of the investigation included a general goal to replace older technology with high efficiency designs, incorporate or introduce locally produced options, and reduce St. Joe's overall carbon footprint.

The Consortium hopes the project will serve as a model for inter-campus collaboration and community partnerships in the future as the region strides toward sustainable solutions to common problems.

Western's Guardians

First of all, let's get an appropriate definition out on the table:

Custodian [cus•to•di•an]
"One who has custody of a thing or person; a guardian."

So say Oxford Scholars in their little publication, the OED, a compilation that has become the recognized authority in qualifying the English language. Contrary to what seems to be a long-standing assumption that a clean living environment just happens, or that those who provide such an environment are isolated individuals resigned to a position of serving others, Western's Academic Custodial Services (ACS) is a body of men and women who truly care about campus health and all-community well-being. They operate strategically and in concert. They are guardians, and they work hard to provide excellence in care and protection for the campus on a daily basis through a commitment to sustainable operations.


"We do a lot of excellent things" said Facilities Management Director John Furman, "it is just that that excellence is what you've come to expect so it seems commonplace."

Part of this commitment to exceptional standards is reflected in the custodial staff's Team Cleaning approach, a nationally recognized strategy that allows custodians to work in each building on campus through a systematic rotation of duties and responsibilities. Team cleaning provides each custodian with an opportunity to take personal ownership of the campus as a whole rather than minimizing their expertise to a single building or cleaning procedure.

Secondly, it's time to retire any deep-rooted assumptions that cleaning staff arm themselves with myriad buckets and bottles of mysterious cleaning solvents. The ACS has initiated a gradual transition from chemical solutions to pure, ionized water as the base cleaning agent. That's right, water. Every surface, every fixture, every component of indoor common areas, even carpet, is scrubbed down with 100 percent H2O.

"Extensive in-house testing has verified that this cleaning approach provides comparable sanitation to green certified chemicals" noted Bill Managan, Assistant Manager of Operations, in a recent interview with University Communications.

The change didn't happen overnight, but it didn't happen this morning either. In 2009 Western's ACS received the national championship Green Cleaning Award, a competitively-sought recognition organized by the Green Cleaning Network and the Healthy Schools Campaign. By implementing these concepts and integrating Green Cleaning technology, ACS has successfully eliminated 75 hazardous and residue-producing cleaning agents from Western's inventory. And they aren't stopping there.

"We are gradually incorporating Green Cleaning equipment into our sustainability strategies by researching and testing different products to see if they are functional in our particular working environments" said Don Bakkensen, Manager of Building Services, "We are choosing products that balance economic feasibility with neutral environmental impacts."

So, when you see a member of ACS today, thank them for diligent service to you, our university, and our community's well-being. They are our guardians.

Graph: Total University eCO2 Emissions by Year

Graph Over the course of fiscal year 2010, Greenhouse Gas emissions dropped by 2798 metric tons.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Western Sustainability Newsletter: