Release Date: April 22, 2008
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As environmentalists and citizens nationwide observe Earth Day, the University at Buffalo today reemphasized its commitment to achieving climate neutrality.
In a series of workshops held for faculty, staff and students, as well as members of the public, focusing on the development of a comprehensive physical plan, UB officials stressed that a major focus of Building UB is the environmental sustainability of facilities, public spaces, landscaping and modes of transportation on its North (Amherst), South (Main Street) and Downtown campuses.
UB President John B. Simpson a year ago signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. UB was among the first 150 institutions to sign the pledge to achieve climate neutrality, reducing greenhouse emissions and off-setting those that remain. As Simpson noted at the time, "We are proud of UB's strong environmental legacy, but we are not satisfied with resting on our past accomplishments."
As part of the development of its comprehensive physical plan in conjunction with the UB 2020 strategic plan and in response to Simpson signing the Presidents Climate Commitment, UB has created a Committee on Environmental Stewardship, chaired by Robert G. Shibley, professor of architecture and planning. As senior advisor to President John B. Simpson, Shibley is overseeing the process that a year from now will result in the first master plan for UB since the North Campus was built in the 1970s.
Michael F. Dupre, associate vice president for university facilities, said the university will be launching a national search to identify a new head of UB Green, the university's environmental stewardship office. Walter Simpson, UB's energy officer and head of UB Green, recently announced that he will be retiring. Dupre noted that UB faculty, staff and students will be fully represented on the search committee.
"We look forward to finding an appropriate UB Green director who can help us attain our stewardship goals as we move forward with the Presidents Climate Commitment and with Building UB," said Shibley.
"With decades of experience, UB's energy conservation efforts have already saved the university tens of millions of dollars and tons of greenhouse gases, earning UB national prominence."
He noted that with creation of the Committee on Environmental Stewardship, those efforts are going to become more of a university-wide effort.
"The university's 'green' goals are going to be a truly shared responsibility, broadly distributed throughout the university, from top to bottom and across all institutional boundaries," Shibley added.
"Far from replacing the many environmental voices on this campus, the Committee on Environmental Stewardship is reinforcing and coordinating all of the efforts of these groups, providing an important forum where all participants can, through their respective representatives, work together to hammer out the best possible path to climate neutrality," he said.
Members of the committee were selected based on their participation in the university's budget-making process and based on their ability to represent a key constituency on campus such as the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Provost, University Facilities, Student Affairs and Information Technology, as well as student groups at the graduate and undergraduate level.
"The idea is to exercise the chain of command, which extends all the way to individual academic departments," said Shibley.
The committee will lead the university to reduce carbon emissions from buildings -- the largest contributor by far -- transportation and other sources, while addressing other impacts, from the kinds of products that are purchased to university-funded air travel. The committee also will focus on improving the environmental education of students and developing research programs in sustainability in UB 2020 strategic strength areas.
As a direct result of signing the Presidents Climate Commitment, UB recently committed itself to purchasing a minimum of 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources, up from six percent, with further increases likely in the future.
And all participants are actively working to promote sustainability in their own areas and throughout the university, whether it's human resources staff developing wellness programs with an environmental angle, or procurement promoting sustainable purchases and reuse of equipment, or facilities staff working to develop new financing mechanisms to pay for buildings with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold or Platinum certifications.
Student representatives have completed surveys of their peers, demonstrating that UB students already have an impressive grasp of environmental issues and the university's leadership role in stewardship.
Committee members are now looking at everything from the kind of paper their offices use to see if it's 100 percent post-consumer recycled content, to the processes by which new construction on campus is proposed, financed and built.
The Committee on Environmental Stewardship, created last fall, "is well into a comprehensive survey of our existing status of stewardship work, not only in University Facilities, but in all areas of environmental concern." The committee, Shibley added, "is using the UB Green-drafted Climate Action Report as a solid base to the work ahead."
Shibley explained that UB Green is represented on the committee through the associate vice president for university facilities, to whom it reports.
"UB Green is staff to the committee and will play a critical role in our outreach on the plan to not only the Environmental Task Force, but to all the student, faculty and staff environmental interest groups that choose to participate," he added.
Shibley said the committee by September 2009 will deliver a plan -- and a target date for realizing it -- that outlines the concrete steps UB will take to achieve climate neutrality.
"The UB Green Climate Action Report benchmarks in a very disciplined way our history of carbon emissions," Shibley said. "Through the report, as well as the efforts of UB Green and the Environmental Task Force, we have clarity about our range of options."
Those options will be carefully weighed, especially as the university proceeds with its expansion plans, Shibley said, requiring the development of new systems that reward, rather than punish, university units that seek to embed energy conservation into new buildings from the beginning.
"A new system of financial rewards needs to be put into place," he said. "Right now, for example, deans have to make choices between academic programs and energy strategies. They are not rewarded for paying attention to energy, and we need to find a way to reward them for doing that."
Shibley directs the Sustainable Urban and Natural Environments Research Group in the UB Department of Architecture, has participated in the development of national award-winning guidelines for energy efficient building renovation, crafted a national award-winning urban plan with a strong section on urban "green" infrastructure and, prior to his appointment at UB, ran national award winning Department of Energy research programs in passive and hybrid solar technologies.