Saving Energy While Serving Thousands

Energy efficiency has become the watchword at Valencia College.

Since 1998, the college has made a concerted effort to reduce and recycle waste, limit water usage in cooling and irrigation, conserve energy and decrease its overall carbon footprint. These efforts have, in turn, lowered operating costs by more than $1 million a year, dollars that can be redirected back to educating students.

“We are in the business of educating students, so whatever it takes to do that, we’re all in,” said Winsome Bennett, manager of Operations and Energy Conservation for Valencia.

A key part of Bennett’s plan was the replacement of the old air conditioning system on the West Campus with a high-efficiency chiller plant, designed to supply all the cooling needs for the main campus buildings using chilled water. Additionally an investment was made in the installation of a high-cycle   water treatment technology system. A recent study revealed that from June 2010 to May 2011, Valencia used 9.4 million fewer gallons of water with the new system over the previous year, or a 36 percent reduction, saving the college more than $102,000.

A new chiller plant was also erected at the college’s East Campus, further reducing utility costs, with plans calling for similar measures at three other campuses.

This fall will mark an expansion of the college’s green efforts with the appointment of Patti Riva, operations manager, who will encourage Valencia’s 3,500 faculty and staff to embrace ecofriendly work habits.

To understand more about employees’ current habits and practices related to energy use, Riva will partner with Energy Education, a national firm that helps churches and schools identify energy waste and turn it into savings.

Riva, who previously served as operations manager for the Winter Park Campus, began her new role on July 5. What does she plan to focus on first? Air conditioning.

“Looking at HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems during unoccupied times is one thing we can we do right away to show a cost savings,” Riva said.  “Bottom line is, we’re not trying to reduce comfort for people. We want to do this while maintaining comfort.”

Eventually, she plans to work with employees to identify and incorporate behaviors that reduce waste and generate further savings.

In 1998, Valencia President Sanford Shugart signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. To date, 667 colleges and universities have pledged to reduce their campus greenhouse gas emissions over time.


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