Texas Tech Builds Green for Big Savings

New construction will reduce energy consumption by 10 percent, support campus-wide efforts

Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, has committed to reusing its resources and conserving energy, and green initiatives are most prevalent in its upcoming and most recent construction work.

Texas Tech is in the beginning stages of building a new $20 million, 41,000-square-foot Petroleum Engineering Building that is being designed to obtain LEED certification. But this is not the first time Texas Tech has worked with LEED. In 2011, the school finished a $70 million initiative for its College of Business Administration (COBA) building that was recently awarded LEED Gold certification [featured in gb&d Jul/Aug/Sep 2012]. “Once we started that project, we implemented a goal that all new capital projects of the right fit would at least be LEED certified,” says Michael Molina, vice chancellor of facilities at Texas Tech.

Which is where the Petroleum Engineering Building fits in. The university aims to exceed 10 percent energy savings in the building, based off its historical index on campus, and the biggest factor in this reduction is in the lighting and controls systems. The team is not only looking at motion sensors but also digitally programmed and managed lighting. “On a college campus, students don’t always flip the switches,” he says. “Timed energy and lighting controls will be used.”

Texas Tech plans on using the highest energy-efficiency products that its budget allows for just about anything that has an end feed to an electrical current. But even small changes pay big dividends; in 2011, the university saved 1.5 million kilowatts with ballast switches, lighting fixture retrofits, and managing air-handling units better.

7,582

Trees saved in 2012 alone through paper recycling

Construction for the petroleum building was just wrapping up demolition and laying the structural elements and foundation in February, so only some of the materials had been selected at that point, but the school plans to use terrazzo flooring with recycled aggregate, glass particulates, and reused metals.

The university has focused on using less water in the past few years, so all fixtures in the new building will be low-flow. Ideally, the building will have waterless urinals as well; however, studies are being done to address the smell that has come up in the COBA building, where waterless urinals were first used on campus.

But small setbacks on construction aren’t stopping Texas Tech across campus. The university has two large cisterns that collect condensation and rainwater to be recycled for irrigation. In 2011, the campus saved 2.7 million gallons of water. “We have completely changed the way we water plants and grass, and our building systems and physical plant have done fixture change-outs to low-flow,” Molina says.

In that same year, Texas Tech recycled 385 tons of its 3,477 tons of waste. “Any time we demolish a building, we make a strong effort to recycle,” Molina says. “We demolished our old Thompson Hall and COBA buildings that year. Our institution does a great job making an effort in all of our buildings to create a sense of excitement around the sustainable efforts.” In the housing and hospitality and all academic buildings, the university appoints champions of sustainability that help collect cardboard and other recyclable materials after student group meetings. “Hats off to the recycling champions and being part of the bigger initiatives,” Molina says. “They are the ones really pushing to make this happen at a grassroots level.” In 2011, the university was able to save 6,545 trees and 146,300 gallons of oil with paper recycling.

Molina says the upper level management at the university has been enthusiastic about these efforts. “Our board of regents and chancellor have been real champions,” he explains. “They have put us in the position to make this a priority. That’s a refreshing, cutting-edge mindset that is much appreciated.”

The biggest challenge, but a good one, Molina notes, has been educating the building users and students who don’t really understand what LEED is. “End users need to understand the value,” he says, “and that it’s not only a sustainable solution, but these solutions, in many cases, are more efficient and run better than conventional methods.”