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How Green was My Building - UCSB Environmental School to be Energy-Efficient Model
Santa Barbara News-Press
by Ann Griffith
April 11, 2001

UCSB officials are raising funds to turn the new Bren School of Environmental Science & Management building into a model of energy efficiency during the state's current electricity crisis.

But when complete, the roughly $2 million in devices such as lighting that switches off when the daylight is bright enough to illuminate rooms, the design will conserve 27 percent to 40 percent more electricity than a conventional structure.

The project has won awards and even the praise of Gov. Gray Davis, who in a school pamphlet calls it "a role model for all buildings and campuses in California."

Bren's planners aren't inventing anything. They are simply incorporating all of the efficiencies into the same structure and showing that such a building doesn't have to cost lots more.

"This is not a building which is simply a showcase for every bell and whistle you can come up with," said Dennis J. Aigner, acting dean of the Bren School. "It is cost-efficient."

It is a model for other buildings in the University of California system and in the state, Aigner said.

Officials working on the new UC Merced campus are looking at their data and will tour the building when it is complete.

With the current energy crisis, companies and architects are more likely to take notice.

"When they have to reduce their energy use and their bills are going up, it makes them more motivated," said Mike Mathes, Southern California sales manager of Johnson Controls Inc., which is installing a lighting and air filtration system it designed.

State officials agreed to pay $22.5 million for Bren's new home after the graduate program that integrates environmental science and business management was created in 1991.

But then school officials said the design wasn't good enough to house a discipline with "environmental" in its name.

They had to push the envelope, and the cost rose by about $2 million. So far Aigner and the school have raised about $700,000 of the needed money.

There's no doubt that the extra conservation measures will be added by the time the building opens in winter 2002, Aigner said.

The board added: fewer light fixtures to reduce energy but still keep lighting optimal for working; an air filtration system that measures the amount of carbon dioxide in the room and reduces it if needed so that people inside don't get sleepy and inefficient; and energy generation units.

A fuel cell system in the basement will use a chemical reaction to generate about 40 percent of the building's electricity.

Photovoltaic cells used to power satellites will be installed on the outside of the building to convert sunshine to electricity and power 10 percent of the building.

Johnson Controls Inc. is contributing $30,000 toward the $2 million in additional conservation measures.

The building already includes a steel frame built with more than 80 percent recycled materials such as old cars.

If opened today, the building would rate gold, according to the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C. with the new measures, it will receive the highest possible rating, platinum, and will be one of only two buildings in the country with that rank, Aigner said. The other is an office building on the East Coast.

Does Aigner worry that some other building will come along in a few years that tops the efficiencies of Bren?

"I hope so," he said.