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Campus Uses Technology to be Efficient and Sustainable

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Along the walkways and hallways of Cal State Fullerton, technology is quietly and efficiently making a difference.

Whether it’s lighting, irrigation or classroom temperatures, these days it’s technology that is helping keep the campus efficient and sustainable. It’s a long way from a pneumatic thermostat and timers on irrigation or lighting systems.

“Devices are talking to people in facilities management all the time,” says Megan Moscol, sustainability programs manager in facilities operations and management. “We’ve become fairly technology dependent when it comes to doing our job well. Modern campuses rely on technology to provide the feedback needed to make sustainable operations and development choices.”

Moscol oversees Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification or equivalence on new campus construction, renovation projects and building operations, including the upcoming Titan Student Union expansion, recent interior renovation of a corporation yard office building and a campus master site certification. Her unit is in charge of integrating and promoting sustainability, including water and energy efficiency, waste reduction, site management and indoor environmental quality, as well as sustainability reporting and recognition, like the Sustainability Tracking and Assessment Reporting System (STARS) and American College and University President’s Climate Commitment.

What do you mean when you say devices are talking to facilities management? Can you provide some examples?

Most campus systems are controlled from a centralized location. Campus energy generation, building temperature setpoints and outside air are monitored and controlled. We analyze measurements from this system to optimize building energy performance.

In a recently installed pilot in the corporation yard, lighting is controlled via computer and wireless switches that sense vacancy and outside light levels, and the amount of energy each fixture uses is measured. Exterior lights can be controlled from an iPad in the field.

Campus energy meters, located at each building, and at our substation, are “smart” and feed into a central system that provides reporting and billing capabilities. Irrigation controls communicate via radio signals and can be modified from a central location or the field with a handheld device.

Even reduction of energy usage campuswide during demand response events is accomplished through a literal “easy” button.

Tools like these can be used not only for control, but also for data logging, troubleshooting, preventive maintenance and planning.

Why is that important?

Automating systems frees up facilities staff to focus on higher level tasks, like analyzing, planning, designing and implementing new solutions to campus problems. In the meantime, building systems monitor themselves or can be changed at the touch of a single button and let us know when something isn’t operating correctly.

What other ways are we using technology?

Water bottle filling stations track the number of bottles we’re diverting from the landfill, sensors that use sonar measure trash levels in our dumpsters to help us optimize service levels, and new technologies are cellular enabled so we can locate sensors in the field with limited access to power and still record data.

What’s coming up?

We received grants this year to install lighting in a biomechanics laboratory and install irrigation water metering. We’ll be submitting our LEED for commercial Interiors documentation for the recently renovated FM-A building this summer and hope to follow up with additional commercial interiors certifications in other permanent corporation yard buildings.

Look for more water bottle filling stations — interior and exterior — on campus soon, as well as source separated recycling across the grounds and in all main buildings by this time next year. Our utility group has a number of exciting incentive-funded projects in the works as well.

What’s in the future?

Moving forward, we see a lot of opportunities to create learning experiences with faculty and students. We received funding to incorporate facilities into coursework next year, and are partnering with a faculty member to investigate campus water usage. We have lots of resources as well that can enrich existing curriculum, like campus floorplans and energy data. We’ve benefitted tremendously from past student projects, such as the campus tree inventory and trash can inventory in GIS, and look forward to continued collaboration.

For more on the University’s efforts: 

Campus Drought Response

CSUF Joins Billion Dollar Green Challenge