UC Irvine has joined President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge with a commitment to reduce electricity use on the main campus by another 9 percent in 2012. It will target 7 million gross square feet in the energy-intensive academic core, which comprises more than 180 structures housing office, lab and instructional space, as well as recreational and patient care facilities.

Obama announced the initiative earlier this year, with the aim of making commercial buildings 20 percent more energy-efficient by 2020 and accelerating private-sector investment in energy efficiency. UCI is on track to show a 20 percent decrease in electrical usage from 2010 to 2012 and expects to achieve 40 percent savings on the main campus by 2020, outperforming the president’s objective by 100 percent. The university was among the first to commit to the initiative when it was expanded to include the public sector.

“UCI’s decision to become an inaugural partner in the Better Buildings Challenge demonstrates the importance our campus places on energy efficiency, and this is one of the many green programs that display our commitment to environmental quality,” said Chancellor Michael Drake.

UCI’s energy management program dates back to the early 1980s and was strengthened in 1992 when the campus adopted the goal of exceeding California’s Title 24 energy efficiency standards by 30 percent for new buildings. In recent years, the university has redoubled its efforts in this area and, despite shrinking budgets, has now attained laboratory energy savings of more than 50 percent through its pioneering Smart Labs program.

In 2008, UCI facilities/energy engineers recognized that recently constructed laboratories had the unexploited potential to be far more efficient without sacrificing occupant safety. The Smart Labs program – which eventually will be deployed in almost all campus laboratories – is designed to lessen the amount of conditioned air released into the atmosphere when conditions permit.

“Improving laboratory energy efficiency is critical in reducing the carbon footprint of research universities because energy-intensive laboratories typically constitute two-thirds of the energy consumption at these institutions,” said Wendell Brase, UCI’s vice chancellor for administrative & business services and chair of the University of California’s Climate Solutions Steering Group.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

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