WUSTL makes progress in sustainability

Stephen Xie clears his plate after a meal this month at the student eatery Bear’s Den, one of the campus locations that offers composting as part of university efforts to reduce its waste sent to landfills. (Credit: James Byard)

Last year, the university finished the contest in the top 10 percent in the Gorilla category, which awards schools that recycle the greatest overall amount of recyclable materials. WUSTL ranked No. 23 out of 296 schools, recycling about 278.6 tons.

This year, with five weeks’ worth of results recorded, WUSTL ranks No. 20 out of 346, which is again in the top 10 percent.

Valko said for this year, he’s simply hoping to improve on previous performances, but wants to set a more precise benchmark and step up education efforts around campus for the 2014 competition.

Energy conservation

The university also has added to its ranks in utility operations in recent months, bringing on senior engineers at both the Danforth and Medical campuses, new positions that can focus on smarter energy use in WUSTL buildings.

Mechanical engineer Brian Winschel is at the Danforth Campus, and energy engineer Kevin Harding is at the Medical Campus.

Ed Barry, director of utility operations at the Danforth Campus, said Winschel is helping with general oversight and upkeep of the operation, but also is working on projects such as installing meters across campus so utilities staff can gain a better sense of which buildings use the most energy and target reduction efforts accordingly. Such efforts could range from simple things like reminding employees to turn off lights when leaving a room to updates such as occupancy sensors or installation of new heating and cooling systems during building renovations.

“This is more of a reinforcement of what we’ve been doing all along, and being able to devote more manpower to it,” Barry said.

Winschel also has been involved with plans for solar panel installation at the Delmar Loop retail and student apartment development under construction.

Harding, meanwhile, is working on ways to make air flow more efficient in medical buildings and to shut down labs not in use for an extended time to save energy and lower utility costs. Shuttering unused labs could save up to $400,000 a year in energy costs, explained Jim Stueber, director of facilities engineering for the School of Medicine.

Harding also is helping oversee energy meters’ installation and oversight, as Winschel is on the Danforth Campus.

Harding is charged with finding opportunities to conserve energy, managing energy meters and training technicians so they’re up to speed on best practices in energy conservation.

All these efforts, Stueber said, are in response to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton’s sustainability plan and challenge.