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Green garage up for recognition

By Clayton Green
On May 25, 2011

This year's National Building Competition has a variety of structures competing; some of them from universities across the country.

However, UCF's entry is unique: it is the only stand-alone parking structure the two-year-old competition has seen. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR National Building Competition measures the energy use of a particular building and compares it to buildings of a similar size.

Parking Garage C is entered in the competition. Eugene Roberts, senior projects engineer for the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management, has high hopes for the building's chances. "It would really surprise me if we're out of the top three," Roberts said. The winner of last year's competition was Morrison Residence Hall in Chapel Hill, N.C. The total energy use-reduction of the UNC dormitory was 36 percent for the year.

It's estimated that Garage C's reduction will be around 66 percent for the year - and that was just due to changing light bulbs. Krishna Singh, the director of UCF Parking and Transportation Services, said that by changing the lights in the parking garage, energy use has been reduced tremendously.

"A garage is just a big concrete box and there's nothing in the garage you can do except change the lighting. That's your biggest cost associated with running a garage," Singh said.

The previous lights were 150 watts compared to the new, energy-friendly fluorescent lights, which are only 70 watts and produce the same amount of light as the old ones. In addition to changing the main lighting in the garages, they also plan on changing the lights on the roofs of the garages to more energy-efficient LED lights.

"Right now, each pole has two 400-watt bulbs," Roberts said of the lights on the roof of Garage C. "We're going to replace those with one fixture that's 309 watts. So the savings are gonna be like 66 percent. We're gonna have better quality of light because it's white light and we're going to have a higher light level than we've previously had."

The Department of Sustainability and Energy Management hopes to extend the retrofit to the other parking garages and also to other areas that need new lights.

"Garage C is kind of the prototype, the pilot program," Roberts said. Along with adding energy-efficient lighting, the parking garages have also received motion sensors in their storage areas.

"A professor will send his students back to pick up a golf cart, they'll turn the lights on, retrieve the golf cart and then leave the lights on and disappear and don't come back until the evening and the light stays on all day," Singh said. "Once you open that gate, the sensor light comes on and after half an hour, if there's no movement, it goes off."

The retrofitting of Garage C is a step in the right direction according to Alexandra Kennedy, a political science major, who works closely with the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management.

"Students ask for it. What are we doing to save money? They pay tuition, so they want the university to save where they can," Kennedy said. "When you get into college, you have that higher level of [environmental] awareness. People do want to see those forms of energy-efficient lighting exhibited."

The National Building Competition officially started on May 4. The competition will announce the finalists June 27, followed by the winner on Nov. 2.

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