UNC Wins EPA Green Building Challenge

Wish your school or workplace was a green building? The results of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Building Competition prove that any building can be green, provided those who use and manage it focus on reducing waste.

The winner of the competition this year was the Morrison Residence Hall at the University of North Carolina UNC) at Chapel Hill. The UNC team beat out 13 other building teams from across the country by reducing their energy use a whopping 35.7 percent in a single year, saving more than $250,000 on utility bills and reducing more than 730 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of nearly 90 homes for a year.

National Building Competition

image via UNC

How did they do it? The Morrison Residence Hall reduced its footprint through a combination of energy efficiency strategies on the part of operations personnel and building managers as well as good old fashioned education and outreach. A computer touch-screen monitor in the lobby helped students keep track of how much energy they were saving; competitions between dorm floors encouraged students to turn off lights and computers; reminders were also posted in elevators, bathrooms, and common areas. Improvements to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, as well as lighting improvements, helped to clinch the deal.

The National Building Competition measured energy performance between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010, with monitoring handled by the EPA’s Energy Star online energy measurement and tracking tool, Portfolio Manager. Buildings were evaluated on the greatest percentage-based reduction in energy consumed by a building relative to its size, with allowances made for changes in weather.

In taking first place, UNC’s Morrison Residence Hall beat out a Sears store in Glen Burnie, Maryland, which came in second with a 31.7 percent energy reduction, and a JCPenney store in Orange, California, which achieved an energy savings of 28.4 percent for third place.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.