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Climate Action Plan Executive Summary

February 7, 2012, Volume 58, No. 21

A. GutmannThe launch of the Climate Action Plan in September 2009 set Penn’s goals and strategies for incorporating sustainability into academic coursework, strategic investment, capital planning, and outreach and engagement at the University. At the heart of our efforts, though, are continued leadership in research, academics, and teaching, to best prepare Penn students for the challenges of the 21st century. Penn’s approach to sustainability continues to be holistic, incorporating initiatives in clean power, energy conservation, green buildings, waste reduction, and sustainable campus operations.

The Climate Action Plan highlights and incorporates these opportunities:

•     Undergraduate students participate in the new Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) to learn about emerging alternative energy technology and are fully aware that Penn is the leading purchaser of wind power among all North American colleges and universities;
•     Graduate students in the Master in Environmental Building Design program at the School of Design can look to any one of Penn’s five LEED buildings to examine first-hand state-of-the-art design and construction technology;
•     Penn’s campus-wide remote metering effort, which will provide a financially-based approach to energy conservation and efficiency, has benefited greatly from consultation with faculty and students in the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation and Energy Studies, a research partnership between Penn Design and Tsinghua University in Beijing;
•     Extra-curricular activities, ranging from a week-long engagement with the region’s sustainability leaders during the freshmen pre-orientation program Penn Green, to the Penn Vegan’s focus on the impact of global food systems, are supported by campus outreach and engagement programs such as the Eco-Reps and the Green Campus Partnership Student Association.

The initiatives noted above touch on a few of the programs described more fully in the following document. This report demonstrates Penn’s commitment to sustainability and environmental awareness, and how the Climate Action Plan goals are woven into our University mission. Penn is setting precedents for how a living and learning environment can respond to global climate change. As we look back on the progress made since 2009, we are energized and excited for the future of sustainability at Penn.

—Amy Gutmann, President

Climate Action Plan

Executive Summary

Green Campus Partnership LogoAs the first Ivy League signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the University of Pennsylvania launched a Climate Action Plan in September 2009, and has become a leading voice in higher education addressing environmental sustainability. The result of our efforts over the last two years is a clear evolution of our campus culture and our approach to how we think, behave, and conduct business—an evolution that can be expected to continue on the trajectory that has been established. From the establishment of a new undergraduate program in energy research and expansion of the Eco-Reps program for outreach and engagement, to the development of the Penn Green Fund which finances cutting-edge sustainability projects and the long-anticipated completion of the 24-acre Penn Park, it is clear that sustainability has become integrated into the everyday fabric of this University.

Since 2009, the University has made significant progress in its drive to improve sustainability efforts in all aspects of campus life and operations:

  Academics: Penn now offers over 160 new and existing classes related to environmental sustainability in departments ranging from Environmental Studies to Public Health. The Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, the Master in Environmental Building Design, and the Sustainability & Environmental Management minor provide various avenues for students to engage with sustainability through research and coursework.

•  Utilities and Operations: There has been a 0.12% decrease in electric usage and a 6.89% increase in steam usage in FY12 year-to-date in comparison to the FY07 baseline. The increase in energy usage can be partially attributed to the campus’ 108,000 SF growth, the occupancy of five new campus buildings since 2007 (Skirkanich Hall, Hill Pavilion, Annenberg Public Policy Center, Music Building, and Weiss Pavilion) and the recent historic weather conditions. When normalized for weather, utilities data for total energy usage indicates a 9.5% decrease (12.1% decrease in electric; 8.0% increase in steam) in comparison to the FY07 baseline.

A few key actions to reduce energy use moving forward include: the development of a centralized system to help identify unusual steam consumption; continuation of the Energy Reduction Fund to assist Schools and Centers with funding for energy conservation projects; and completion of smart meter installations and an information database to provide real-time building level energy data for benchmarking, analysis, and feedback.

Furthermore, as a result of recent negotiations with its steam provider, the University will benefit from the utility company’s replacement of aging oil-fired boilers with new rapid-fire, duel fuel boilers. The upgrade is expected to reduce emissions from steam usage by 10% for all of their regional customers, which translates to a reduction of approximately 2 percent of Penn’s overall emissions.

Penn will also continue supporting the development of renewable energy through REC purchases.

•  Physical Environment: The completion of Penn Park increased campus open space by 20%, and Weiss Pavilion became the fifth Penn building to receive LEED certification from the US Green Building Council since 2009, following the highest accolades of Platinum certification for the Morris Arboretum Horticulture Center. In 2012, Penn Law’s new Golkin Hall will target LEED Silver certification; Shoemaker Green will continue to serve as a pilot for the Sustainable SITES, a new set of guidelines and performance benchmarks for the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of landscapes; and a comprehensive stormwater management master plan will be completed.

•  Transportation: A more livable campus, with easy access to public and alternative transit is being realized through Penn Transit’s new bi-fuel transit vehicles; the expansion of car-sharing programs and electric car charging stations; and the accommodation and increase of bicycle and pedestrian commuters. New bicycle racks, with the capacity to park over 150 bikes, were installed in convenient locations throughout campus; increasing the bicycle capacity of campus to 2750 individual bike parking spots.

•  Waste Minimization: The campus recycling rate increased from 17% in 2008 to approximately 31% in 2011, reflecting individual and departmental behavior change spurred by ongoing efforts such as RecycleMania, PennMOVES, and new composting initiatives by Penn Dining. Moving forward, the campus will see additions to its list of recyclable materials, an increase in more conveniently placed indoor and outdoor recycling bins, and a gradual transition to single-stream labeling and signage.

•  Outreach & Engagement: The Penn Eco-Reps program has successfully connected grassroots sustainability advocates to policy-makers and influenced real change at the University. In addition to the 100-plus students who are members of the College House, Greek Chapter, and Hillel Eco-Reps programs, over 80 representatives from buildings and departments across campus now volunteer as Staff/Faculty Eco-Reps. Seven Penn Schools and Centers have designated their own Sustainability Coordinators, and Green Fund grants were awarded to develop 36 innovative sustainability projects that were conceived by members of the Penn community.

•  Communications: Comprehensive marketing and communications strategies have developed the identity of the Penn Green Campus Partnership and raised awareness of the broad range of sustainability efforts and initiatives across the campus via an active website with an average 100 visitors daily; a campus wide e-newsletter with over 5,200 subscribers; dozens of promotional events held in various Schools and Centers; and nearly 500 sustainability stories generated by local, regional and national media outlets.

Since the establishment of the 2007 baseline, carbon emissions at Penn have been flat—a total variation of about 2%. FY11 is the first year since 2007 that emissions have risen, principally due to the growth of the campus (108,000 SF growth in campus buildings) and the effects of a colder winter and warmer summer over the 12-month recording period. Compared to the FY07 baseline of 290,204 MTCDE (Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent), Penn increased its carbon emissions by 4,004 MTCDE (1.4%) in FY11. During this same time period the University increased its purchase of wind RECS to 200,000; offsetting the equivalent of over 29% of Penn’s carbon footprint, up from the FY 2007 baseline of 22%.

Penn has identified the year 2042 as an aspirational goal for achieving climate neutrality. Conservation through capital investment and behavior change strategies, improved low-carbon energy sourcing, and the purchase of RECs and offsets will be among the strategies employed in meeting this ambitious goal. The following progress report summarizes the broad array of initiatives taken by Penn that have emerged from the 2009 Climate Action Plan, and outlines the goals, metrics, and key actions for the Penn community moving forward.



Almanac - February 7, 2012, Volume 58, No. 21