Facilities Services has an important role in the sustainability of our campus. The Facilities team is in charge of how the campus uses energy, water and how we dispose of our waste, and have made sustainability a priority in all discussions for major and minor construction and remodeling projects.
Making sustainability a priority not only helps to secure limited resources for future generations, but also saves the campus money in the long term, and those savings are reinvested into the campus.
Although sustainability is a priority, we are continuously improving and adding new policies and practices to make sure our campus has a minimum impact to the environment and limits our resource use. Below are current practices and policies Facilities takes to make our campus as sustainable as possible.
Grounds and Landscaping
Over the last few years UW Tacoma has been able to lower irrigation usage by implementing a highly efficient watering system called Rain Bird. The Rain Bird system takes in information from the weather station shown below to optimize the efficiency of water usage due to irrigation needs.
The grounds crew is working to upgrade the current water irrigation system to detect water leaks, upgrade the old sprinkler heads to more efficient ones and installing new zone control panels which will increase the range the smart system irrigates.
Plants and Ground Cover
UW Tacoma takes pride in having a beautiful campus with luscious colors in the spring, vibrant changing colors in the fall and the constant greenery during the winter months. Most of the plants on campus were chosen for their aesthetics, but most of the ground cover and plants on campus are native to the Pacific Northwest.
Native plants promote biodiversity within our area because our native wildlife, especially birds, butterflies, pollinators and other organisms, evolved with the plants here; many can only feed on plants they co-evolved with. Unfortunately, unwise development has led to large expanses of lawn and exotic (nonnative) plants replacing natural areas.
Using native plants also makes economic sense because native plants are easier to grow and cheaper to maintain. This means using less water to maintain native plants since they have evolved to adapt to the PNW.
Walking around the campus you will notice many native plants such as sword ferns (Polystichum munitum), wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Dewe's sedge (Carex deweyana), Salmon berry (Rubus spectabilis), wood sorrel (Oxalis oregana), Rough Wallflower, (Erysimum capitatum) and many more. However, not all the plants on campus are native such as the Ornamental Garlic (Allium aflatunense), Magnolia trees, English Ivy (Hedera helix), Rhododendrons and more. Although some these plants are non-native and require more labor and water, they give a sense of diverse beauty and uniqueness to the campus.
Maintenance - Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP)
Effective maintenance activities can contribute to sustainability goals such as improving energy and resource efficiency; therefore, Facilities performs regular preventive maintenance on equipment to ensure the longevity of life in our assets.
Facilities is aware that as machines wear, they become more expensive to run and less efficient. For this reason, we both maintain equipment properly to extend its life and retrofit it to allow monitoring and improve control thus avoiding scrapping it. This has a lower impact on the environment and saves the campus money in the long run.
However, as equipment becomes obsolete, we replace these assets with newer and more efficient technology which lowers our carbon footprint and reduces our resource use. Below are some policies and practices Facilities is taking to ensure a more efficient and sustainable campus.
- Using 2-year filters in air handlers, which reduces maintenance time and less truck deliveries, as opposed to 6-month filters.
- Upgraded electric boilers with programmable and schedulable units.
- Point of use water heaters: Learn more about the benefits of using tankless water heaters.
- Motor Management (life cycle renewal), which replace 5 horsepower and greater motors with at least a 90% efficiency motors.
- Campus lighting upgrade to LED is ongoing and will replace all current light fixtures to LED over time. We also have added motion sensors and are starting to add exterior LED lights that are solar dependent.
- New units of water fountains have been installed around the campus that have no compressors (less electricity used) and have water bottle filling to encourage the use of reusable containers.
- Current water fountain compressors are disconnected since Tacoma water is cooler than room temperature. Less cooling saves energy.
- Window washing on campus only uses water and no soaps or other chemicals that might add to the urban runoff pollution.
- Hand dryers were installed in every bathroom which saves thousands of dollars in paper towels.
General Products and Administration
When Facilities performs a much needed remodeling to classrooms, we make sure to use little to no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to our paints, carpets, furniture and other materials. We use high quality carpet tile which is recyclable. We use only LEDs for new construction or any remodels of our campus.
As for offices, as a campus we only use recycled paper for printing. Some other printing practices include double-sided printing, black and white primary selection and centralized printing only.