5 Ways UAB is Creating a More Sustainable Campus

1. Green Roofs

UAB Roofs generate solar power

UAB Roofs generate solar power. Photo Credit, UAB Magazine

Look up, and you may catch a glimpse of blossoming gardens atop University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) buildings. UAB Facilities and the School of Engineering have partnered to transform otherwise unconventional roof spaces into more sustainable and aesthetically-pleasing garden rooftops. The produce-filled gardens have earned the name “Green Roof,” and can be found on the roofs of the Hulsey Fine Arts Center, Business and Engineering Complex, Chemistry Building, and Campbell Hall. Julie Price, UAB Sustainability Coordinator, says the UAB community can expect to see additional Green Roofs created in 2014.

Flora that require little water and high heat, such as succulents, can be found on the roofs. The carefully-selected flowers thrive in the urban heat island–a phenomenon in which metropolitan areas are significantly warmer than the surrounding suburbs. In addition to providing a more attractive view, the range of benefits from the gardens for UAB buildings include:

  • Added insulation and cooling for the buildings

  • Extended roof-life

  • A more natural habitat for birds, insects, lizards and other wildlife

  • Conserved energy

  • Cleaner stormwater

  • Beautiful & colorful view

2. Green Space

UAB is home to an exceptional amount of greenspace

UAB is home to an exceptional amount of greenspace. Photo Credit: Birmingham Business Alliance

Ask any UAB student what the campus’ landmark is, and you’ll receive the typical answer: the Campus Green. The Campus Green is exactly what it sounds like–a 320-square-feet open green space that spreads across 15th St. S and 9th Ave. S. In the UAB Master Plan, a University and City of Birmingham initiative, plans are outlined to expand the campus’ green space from the Campus Green to Railroad Park, an on-campus stadium, new residence halls and more.

UAB Campus Planning is in the planning stages of a project that resembles Chicago’s Millennium Park that covers nearly 25 acres of Grant Park. UAB’s version of Millennium Park will come down 15th Street, down the campus green and northwards. “It will have buildings left and right, oriented so that they’re arranged as a linear park, similar to Millennium Park,” said Sheila Chaffin, Executive Director of Campus Planning. Additional pedestrian greenways are also included in the plans.

3. Transportation

UAB Blazzer Express bus shuttle routes

The UAB Blazzer Express bus shuttle encourages public transportation.

UAB Department of Parking and Transportation Services asks students, faculty, staff, and authorized visitors to leave the car keys at home and ride the Blazer Express instead. Launched in January, 2014, the Blazer Express is a free 24-hour bus shuttle that serves the UAB community. The shuttle system was initiated as a way to provide safe, economic, and reliable transportation to, and from campus. It’s meant to serve as an alternative to driving or using Campus Ride and Escort, a program that was discontinued with the launch of the Blazer Express. In an effort to increase fuel economy, the buses operate using diesel fuel instead of gasoline. On average, diesel is 33% more efficient in gas mileage than gasoline.

The University is in preliminary stages of implementing a Bike Exchange System that will add bicycle share-all lanes–a shared lane between bikers and drivers–on major university streets. 17th Street South is expected to serve as a discreet bicycle street. The UAB Transportation Office allows students to register their bikes so that stolen bikes may be returned to its owner.

4. Energy Management

UAB Facilities Division developed unique energy management system

UAB Facilities Division created a network of water tanks and pipes to collect groundwater and cooling systems’ condensate. Photo Credit: UAB Magazine

UAB Facilities Division has engineered a way to save tens of thousands of dollars and millions of gallons of water with a simple, but innovative solution. In 2013, the Division created a network of water tanks and pipes to collect groundwater and cooling systems’ condensate. In a single month, 1 million gallons of water are collected from the system. The savings from this water system is being used towards other projects, such as the addition of water filtration stations in buildings. A water filtration station was implemented in the UAB Campus Recreation Center (CRCT) about 6 months ago and has already supplied enough water to fill 43,000 plastic water bottles.

The University is consistently seeking ways to improve energy efficiency in its buildings. UAB recently replaced 24 -100 watt can lights with 17 watt LED floods, which also have wireless occupancy sensors. The new lighting has helped decrease wattage usage by 2,810 kWhs, which saves about $2,000 each year. In the past few years, more than 61,000 T-12 fluorescent lamps have been replaced with T-8 fluorescent lamps providing UAB with better lighting quality and less overall maintenance work. To date, the lighting upgrades have saved approximately 750,000 kWhs of electricity and $525,000 annually.

In addition, another $2,000-3,000 is saved each year with the upgraded chilled water re-circulation pump in the Administration building. The pump has 20 horsepower and its RMPs are reduced seasonally by 33-50%. Many UAB buildings also benefit from air handlers, water ring pumps, and boiler control upgrades. UAB saves a whopping $1.5 million annually simply by setting back thermostat controls during nighttime hours and on holidays and school breaks when many of the buildings are unoccupied.

5. Student Involvement

The UAB Green Initiative helps students get involved in green efforts on campus.

UAB students wanting to get involved with on-campus sustainability efforts can join the Green Initiative.

Students interested in becoming involved with sustainability efforts may become involved with the Green Initiative, a student organization devoted to increasing campus awareness about recycling and sustainability. Green Initiative focuses on campus recycling efforts by encouraging students to recycle at the UAB Recycling Center located at 620 11th Street S between WBHM and Birmingham Fire Station #2. The Recycling Center takes aluminum cans, plastic bottles, paper, steel, used oil/grease, glass and glass. Green Initiative encourages students to participate on-campus as well by recycling in on-campus green bins provided by the Recycling Center. The Center’s drop-off hours are 6:30-8:30 a.m. and Mondays, 4-6 p.m.

UAB is also looking to offer a minor in sustainability in the near future for students interested in pursuing knowledge in environmental studies. UAB Sustainability Committee is seeking student involvement by inviting students to their meetings and providing input. “I’ve attended a lot of conferences around the country, and I hear one thing over and over again,” said Price. “If students want it, they’ll get it.”

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