UCSF Sustainability Stories

Ana Toepel, Green Impact, May 2019

UCSF Housing Delivers Huge Energy and Resource Savings

UCSF’s Housing Services has been hard at work this year to renovate, clean, and improve campus housing. According to Danny De Leon, Housing Facilities Project Manager, their goal for these housing improvement projects has been two-fold:  to achieve energy savings and improve services for tenants. Thus far, it appears that they have hit their target. With projects including building renovations at Aldea San Miguel, lighting fixture upgrades at Aldea and 5th Avenue housing, and various other building improvements, Housing Facilities has both saved substantial resources and energy and made their buildings safer and more aesthetically-appealing for tenants. 

Buildings at Aldea San Miguel were previously covered with moss and lichen, giving them a discolored appearance and slimy feel. Though the buildings looked to be in poor condition, the shingles and paneling that serve as siding were straight and still functional. Instead of replacing the siding, the buildings were pressure washed and brightened—in line with the sustainability motto “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repair.” As a result of this choice, substantial resources were saved: eight pallets of shingles were kept out of the landfill, and the use of eight pallets of new shingles was avoided. For just one building, nearly the equivalent of one 40’ long storage container full of processed shingles and siding was saved! The buildings also look fresh and new, and the stairs and walkways are safer. 

Lighting improvements were also made at Aldea, as well as at 5th Avenue Housing, achieving major energy savings. At Aldea, LED glass light fixtures with a lifespan of 50,000 hours and a photocell that turns lights on and off automatically were installed on the buildings’ exteriors, including porches and stairways. At 5th Avenue housing, lighting fixtures were replaced with LEDs in the garages and other exterior areas. The garage lighting replacement alone achieved 70% percent savings in energy, reducing electricity draw by 10,000 watts, about the equivalent of the energy needed to power 10 refrigerators! 

These lighting upgrades not only reduced energy use, but also increased nighttime safety and comfort for tenants; the intention was to create lighted, safe pathways from the exterior to the interior of the buildings. “Housing’s investments in LED lighting are a great improvement,” says James Hand, Energy Manager, Utilities Services. “They’ve helped move UCSF closer to our sustainability goals (including Carbon Neutrality), all while improving security and reducing utility costs.”

Housing has also made a variety of other improvements to its facilities. Collaborating with Environmental Health and Safety, lead paint on several buildings at 5th Avenue was stabilized, a process that prevents the lead in old layers of paint from becoming flaky and peeling off. The result is buildings that are safer for both tenants and the environment. At Mission Bay housing, a building envelope study was done to learn how window systems, roofing, and drainage systems could be more efficient. Additionally, in several locations, waste containers were upgraded to make correct sorting of waste easier and to better support UCSF’s recycling efforts. 

Moving forward, De Leon shares, “We are looking at how to increase our sustainability efforts.” One great example of this is UCSF’s newest housing community, The Tidelands, which is near the Mission Bay Hospital and set to open this June. “It will be our most efficient residential building thus far,” De Leon says.