UCSF Sustainability Stories


Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, May 2014


Climate Action Planning at UCSF

Over the past four years, UCSF has built significant momentum toward tackling formal sustainability goals in response to UC Regents’ policies.  UCSF’s Carbon Neutral Work Group, part of the Sustainability Steering Committee (SSC), works to promote and encourage carbon neutrality in the campus built and leased environment through energy efficiency and transportation programs. We had the opportunity to speak with Paul Franke, UCSF Senior Planner and co-chair of the Carbon Neutral Work Group, about how UCSF plans to tackle progress toward the President’s new carbon neutrality goal.  Late last year, UC President Napolitano declared that UC will be the first research university to achieve carbon neutrality, with a target date of 2025.

Sustainability Action Plan 2.0

UCSF’s new Sustainability Action Plan details UCSF’s climate action goals:

*  Use energy efficiency retrofit projects to reduce system-wide growth-adjusted energy consumption by 10% or more by 2014 (base 2000);
*  Reach 1990 emission levels by 2020; and
*  Participate in the University Office of the President planning process to explore how to meet carbon neutrality by 2025.

UCSF’s Carbon Footprint

Metrics 1990-2035Before discussing UCSF’s strategies for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, below we briefly summarize UCSF’s baseline carbon footprint.  GHG emissions are often measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCOe), accounting for the global warming potential of different greenhouse gases.Calendar years, 2012 and 2013 emission levels are currently being verified. Verification for 2011 indicate that UCSF emitted 152,076 metric tonnes of MTCOe.  The bulk of those emissions is attributed to the $30 million we spend on energy to support its health care, research and education mission.  The operational energy cost of UCSF’s 750 fume hoods alone is about $4.9 million dollars per year. 

Many factors contribute to UCSF’s greenhouse gas emissions:

The majority of UCSF’s carbon footprint comes from the energy consumption and burning of fossil fuels for utilities:  As an urban, multi-site campus, UCSF has almost 30,000 people employed, affiliated or being educated.  UCSF owns or leases space in 183 buildings throughout San Francisco, occupying more than 7 million gross square feet (gsf) of space.  UCSF’s faculty, research staff and students conduct a tremendous amount of energy-intensive laboratory research, as well as serve patients at the medical center and clinics. Research and clinical or complex space comprises about 25 percent of UCSF assignable square footage, but uses about 70 percent of the total energy consumed. The typical laboratory uses far more energy and water per square foot than the typical office building due to energy intensive processes and ventilation requirements.  The majority of UCSF emissions are due to burning natural gas and cleaner alternatives have not yet been identified.

Commuting:  UCSF is the second largest employer in San Francisco, after the City and County of San Francisco, with 22,000 employees and more than 5,000 students, residents and postdoctoral scholars, a major source of emissions is commuter travel.  Last month we ran a post on the many innovative programs UCSF has to reduce emissions from commuting.  This piece focuses on how we are tackling emissions from energy use.

UCSF’s Strategy

UCSF’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), completed in December 2009, details potential opportunities for reducing the campus’ carbon footprint.  According to Paul Franke, UCSF Senior Campus Planner,  “Meeting the carbon neutrality goals will be a challenge for UCSF.”  This is because UCSF is growing.  The campus added over two million gsf at Mission Bay in the past decade and is getting ready to open an additional one million square feet with the hospital and Global Health Sciences building in Feb 2015.  Another challenge is that many of UCSF’s existing building stock is older and less energy efficient. 

Some of the key strategies for reducing UCSF’s carbon footprint include:

Invest in On-Site Renewable Energy: UCSF is investing in on-site clean generation.  For example, the new hospital at Mission Bay roof is planned to be covered in solar panels, offsetting 5% of the buildings total electrical consumption.  However, other new campus buildings, such as 25A, while highly energy efficient, do not include solar panels due to the lack of funds to cover the initial cost.  Although UCSF has physical space constrains, we are still pursuing opportunities for on-site renewable energy. UCSF is currently assessing the feasibility of installing solar panels at several campus sites; sites that are likely feasible would produce about 1.4 million kWh per year.

Renovation of Older Buildings:  According to the 2011 report of the UC Climate Solutions Steering Group, Prospect for a Sustainable Future:  Recommendations for Implementing UC’s Commitment to Climate Neutrality, ”The importance of energy efficiency cannot be stressed enough. The less energy campuses use, the lower their emissions as well as their costs. This is true now and in the future. Deep energy efficiency—measures that reduce energy consumption and associated carbon emissions by half or more—is the most immediate, cost feasible strategy to effect a substantial reduction in UC’s carbon footprint.”  Franke explains, “Building renovations of older facilities will play a huge role in helping us achieve our goal.  We have a lot of old buildings, and renovating them is critically important.”  According to Franke, renovation of the clinical sciences building (CSB) and UC Hall is expected to reduce the energy consumption in those buildings by half. 

All New Buildings will be Green:  UCSF has made a commitment to build all new campus construction to meet at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design) Silver standard. The new medical center at Mission Bay is expected to be a LEED Gold facility.

Explore Offsite Projects and Offsets:  To reach the carbon neutral goal will require UCSF to explore opportunities to invest in large off-site projects.  Franke explains, “We’re hard at work looking for opportunities to invest in large offsite projects and system wide initiatives that have a significant impact on our bottom line. One possibility is the large scale solar projects being built by UC Campuses with more land.
Below are spotlights on a few recent UCSF accomplishments as we move toward the goal of reducing our carbon footprint.
Continue to Engage Faculty, Staff and Students:  The successful LivingGreen Office Certification Program engages offices, labs, clinics and units to adopt a range of green best practices, reducing energy use and waste, saving UCSF $301,000 in three years.  UCSF will continue to launch programs that embed energy efficiency and sustainability into the UCSF culture. 

Mission Hall:  Going for Gold

Mission BayMission Hall, also known as Mission Bay Block 25A, is a new 264,000 square foot building being currently being built at Mission Bay.  The unique design process resulted in a building that is expected to qualify for LEED Gold.  According to Gary Nelson, UCSF Project Manager, Mission Hall is a very energy efficient building.  UCSF used an innovative process that required the architect and the general contractor to partner and bid on the project together, resulting in cost savings and pushing the green building envelope.  The project does not incorporate solar due to budget constraints, however, sustainability is truly embedded into the building’s design.  Green aspects include an under floor air distribution (UFAD) system known for high indoor air quality, coupled with a high thermal mass structural frame that minimizes energy flux resulting in over 30% energy savings. , Additionally, occupancy sensors, larger north-facing windows provide for well-balanced daylight and a flexible design that incorporates workstations, open collaboration spaces and private meeting spaces.

Rock Hall:  HVAC Upgrades Result in Huge Energy Savings

In August 2009, Rock Hall received a LEED-Existing Building (EB) Silver rating—the first time UCSF has successfully modified an existing building to fulfill the LEED-EB standards.  By renovating the HVAC in Rock Hall in 2013, we reduced equivalent CO2 emissions by a total of 330 metric ton/year, the equivalent to removing 65 cars off the road.  The project also resulted in huge energy savings—938,333 kWh/year and 17,458 therms of Natural Gas (thermal energy). The achieved savings are 12% of the total electrical energy usage of the Rock Hall building and 8% of the thermal energy usage. By implementing this project the annual energy cost will be reduced by $124,800. The return on investment (ROI) will be less than 2 years. 

Other Recent Accomplishments

There are many other projects across UCSF working to reduce energy use.  Other accomplishments include:

*  The Medical Center electric chiller replacement project saved $1.3M in energy costs.  Along with other energy, water and waste reduction activities, UCSF will save over $2M per year in energy costs.
*  The Parnassus Central Plant re-engineered reducing emissions by 7,000 MT CO2e.
*  Over three years, UCSF has received a total of $3M in rebates for lighting retrofits, variable speed ventilation and other various energy efficiency projects.
*  Medical Center energy efficiency update, which included several HVAC upgrades at our China Basin site, will save UCSF over $100,000/year.

Story by Green Impact—bringing sustainability to life.