Butro lighting draws comments

The open work areas in the Butrovich make entire floors appear to be lit when a few emergency lights or work area lights are on – especially at night. Photo by Todd Paris UAF Marketing and Communications.

“Stop using so many lights, Butrovich Building, and stop wasting electricity!”

So goes the most popular suggestion received repeatedly via President Hamilton’s “Outside the Box” feature at http://www.alaska.edu/pres/suggestion-box/.

Many people who’ve taken time to send a suggestion have focused on the building’s lights. People assume the building uses too much energy for lighting. They say occupants aren’t mindful enough about using fewer lights and that the automatic controls aren’t conservative enough.

In fact, UAF Facilities Services has taken numerous steps to reduce energy consumption in the Butrovich Building and other buildings on campus, especially with lights.  Specifically to the Butrovich Building, Facilities staff has:

  • Converted old T-12, 40-watt fluorescent lamps to 32-watt T-8s, slashing energy consumption by a third and halving labor costs from lamp changes;
  • Replaced incandescent bulbs with newer compact fluorescents;
  • Placed the north and south soffit lighting (the accent lights above the ledges, alongside the south windows facing the fields or above the hallway on the north side, facing the parking lot) on auto control, so lights are only on during business hours;
  • Turned off non-essential architectural lighting (including soffits) mid-winter. They’ve been off all summer but will start to come on again as daylight dwindles;
  • Reduced other artificial lighting during long daylight hours of summer (the “daylight harvesting dimming controller”).

In the future, Facilities intends to replace select interior building lights with new LED technology.

“Outside the Box” suggestions frequently zeroed in on the motion-activated lights in common areas, which some people believe should switch off quicker than the current 30 minutes of non-activity.
But UAF Facilities says the 30-minute delay balances energy savings with labor savings. In other words, lights switching on and off too much wear out more quickly, which means they have to be replaced sooner rather than later, which costs more money in labor.

“We’re constantly balancing the cost of energy with the cost of maintenance and operations within a particular building. The payback needs to occur over a reasonable amount of time.” says Stephen Gemmell, senior facilities electrical engineer at UAF. “Over the past 15 years, we’ve steadily improved the energy efficiency of not only the Butrovich Building, but most of the buildings on the UAF campus.”

Facilities staff said emergency lighting requirements mean the Butrovich Building never will be entirely dark. The building is always occupied: the Data Center is staffed round-the-clock;  janitorial staff clean at night; and security patrols the building. 

The building’s open cubicle layout make one light section appear to illuminate the entire floor, especially to casual observers driving by at night.  Lack of trees or buildings around the Butrovich can make it seems like a shining beacon to the valley below.  “The building’s energy consumption is on target with our goals in maintenance and operations,” said Gemmell.

Still, it’s a good habit for employees to turn off non-essential lights to save energy, especially those with offices, accent lamps and other appliances. Employees in offices who have to step out for a longer meetings in other parts of the building or elsewhere on campus should switch off their lights, even if they intend to return.

“Outside the Box” received a total of 34 suggestions since the site was created in October 2008. Seventeen people provided their name and email for a personal response. Many received a note from University Relations Vice President Wendy Redman.

Suggestions went to the following team: President Hamilton, VP Redman, Finance Vice President Joe Trubacz, Controller Myron Dosch, Budget Associate Vice President Michelle Rizk, CITO Steve Smith, General Counsel Roger Brunner, Academic Affairs Vice President Dan Julius, Chief Human Resources Officer Beth Behner and Public Affairs Director Kate Ripley. President Hamilton and his executive team  continue to discuss many of the cost-containment suggestions.

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