UW Tacoma understands that the world's natural resources have conflicting demands upon them and can be difficult to manage, but resources need to be retained for future generations. By lowering our resource use we can also reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lower our greenhouse gas emissions.
UW Tacoma has been successful in lowering our electricity consumption, potable water use and natural gas use while our student population increases. This means that as the campus and student population continue to grow, our resource use has stayed the same or, in most cases, decreased. Find out more about the use of each resource below.
UW Tacoma receives its electricity from Tacoma Power. Fortunately, Tacoma Power generates its electricity mostly from Hydro Power which emits relatively small greenhouse gases compared to traditional forms of electricity generation. With a growing need for electricity, UWT makes it a priority in lowering our electricity consumption.
In 2016, UWT hit its peak consumption for electricity at about 11,600 Megawatt hours (MWh). At 12 MWh per home, that is enough to power about 967 homes a year! But UWT has managed to lower its electricity consumption by 1,100 MWh or enough electricity to power 92 homes a year! Even though our campus and student population are consistently growing, we are able to lower our electricity consumption by implementing Energy Star products and using best management practices to conserve energy.
Natural Gas Use
The use of natural gas for the campus is not only for the Bunsen burners in the science building but is mostly used for heating. Natural gas is the fuel used in the hydronic loops for the boilers. These boilers burn natural gas to heat water and the water is then circulated throughout the buildings on campus to provide heat during the winter.
Burning natural gas does contribute to the campus carbon footprint but we are working to replace these natural gas boilers with high-efficiency electric boilers within 5 to 10 years when the NG boilers reach their end of life cycle. This change will increase our electricity consumption but lower our overall energy use (EUI) and lower our greenhouse gas emissions.
Buildings that are not heated with NG are heated and cooled with a system called Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system which uses electricity to operate.
Energy Utilization Index (EUI)
EUI is expressed as energy per square foot per year. It’s calculated by dividing the total energy consumed by a building in one year (measured in kBtu) by the total gross floor area of the building. EUI is an indicator of the energy efficiency of a building’s design and/or operations. EUI can be thought of as the miles per gallon rating of the building industry.
EUI is used in a number of different ways, including to set a target for energy performance before beginning design, to benchmark a building’s designed or operational performance against others of the same building type, or to evaluate compliance against energy code requirements. It is important to remember that EUI varies with building type. A hospital or laboratory will have a higher EUI than a residence or small office building.
As for UW Tacoma, our campus scores well below the average EUI for higher education institutes. According to Energy Star, in 2018 the average EUI for higher education institutions was 180.6 (kBtu/ft2). In 2018, UW Tacoma EUI was just below 60 (kBtu/ft2). UWT is continuously improving our energy use and infrastructure and we predict it will continue to lower as we implement better energy use practices.
All Potable Water Use
Living in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), we are fortunate enough to have lots of rain during the fall, winter and spring months. However, that does not mean we take water for granted at UW Tacoma! We are constantly looking to reduce and conserve water.
It is a standard for the campus to use only low flow and high efficiency urinals, toilets and faucets for any new construction or remodels. Even with the high efficiency water infrastructure placed on campus, there is still work to be done to reduce our consumption.
As the graph below shows, campus has been able to stay consistent on water usage over the years. Although we were able to prevent any major increase in potable water consumption, we were unable to have any major reduction due to continued growth as an institution. More students means more water will be consumed in the labs, restrooms and campus operations.
Irrigation Water Use
The campus uses potable water to irrigate the campus landscape. Over the years, our landscapers have replaced many of the plants with native and drought resistant plants. This allows the campus to use minimal potable water for the landscape. However, the largest reduction in landscape water usage comes from the installation of our on-campus weather station.
The weather station allows us to make adjustments to our irrigation system to maximize efficiency and avoid wasting water. The weather station feeds weather condition data to the smart irrigation system (Rain Bird). This includes absorption rate, evaporation rate and temperature. This has resulted in an almost 50% reduction in irrigation water usage as the graph below shows.
Currently, only about 60% of the campus is irrigated with the Rain Bird system. We will be increasing this system in the future. Also, the Giving Garden irrigation need is about 25% of the total campus irrigation use, but Facilities Services is currently planning on upgrading their irrigation system to reduce labor and water usage.