Ivy in the City: Sustainability and Higher Education in the Pacific Northwest
By Becky Brun, Sustainable Industries
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Wim Wiewel is facing the same issues that most university presidents are facing today: increasing student enrollment at a time when in-kind giving is down and states are dealing with budget shortfalls; keeping up with master plans that include major renovations and construction projects; staying on top of faculty research as well as students’ needs—and that’s just skimming the surface.
Wiewel is also trying to make Portland State University (PSU) a national leader in sustainable higher education. Recipient of a $25 million grant from The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation for sustainability education, PSU is gaining even more traction in the sustainability arena. But the current recession could force Wiewel and other university leaders to take fewer risks on things such as new courses and degrees in 2009.
A native of The Netherlands, Wiewel is known for his charismatic leadership and his ability to ignite success in those around him. While the dean of the business school at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Wiewel took the business college from 94th to 49th on the U.S. News & World Report’s national business school rankings. Sustainable Industries caught up with Wiewel on the downtown campus of the state’s largest university to talk about Portland State’s role in helping Oregon become a world leader in sustainability and how his approach to leadership has changed during the current recession.
SI: You’ve said that part of your attraction to Portland and Portland State was the opportunity to apply research to tangible projects in the city. Now that you’ve been at PSU for a year, where do you see the biggest opportunities?
Wiewel: One of the things I had not spent much time thinking about until I came here is the sustainable practices of the institution itself. We are a large corporation, so how we conduct our business obviously matters. Here 62 percent of the faculty, staff and students use transportation other than the automobile to get here. We make the place attractive to bicyclists. We are a co-investor on many projects with Tri-Met. On the facilities side, we go beyond state requirement for green building.
Our Green Building Research Lab, where we develop and test new green building technologies provides workforce training and facilitates the adoption of energy-efficient technologies throughout the building industry. We are working with Glumac, Interface Engineering, PAE Consultants, Gerding Edlen, David Evans and Associates and we will be involving others.
SI: How is PSU prepared to be a national leader in sustainable education?
Wiewel: It already is. I think that we clearly have a lot of people that are doing research in this area. It’s diffused through a lot of the curriculum, so we draw both faculty and researchers who want to teach here, which then makes us more attractive to people who want to get degrees related to this area. Then the students become the workforce and entrepreneurs and the civic leaders who will continue to promote sustainability and enhance Portland’s ability to make sustainability an economic, cultural and social niche for this region.
Read the entire Sustainable Industries interview with Wiewel, as well as interviews with the University of Washington's Dan Poston, and San Francisco State University's Nancy Hayes at http://www.sustainableindustries.com/sijprofile/42019422.html?page=1.
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Three faculty members at Portland State University have won a grant to help them pay for their research into the effects of combining green roofs with solar arrays. Carl Wamser, a member of the university’s chemistry faculty; David Sailor, a mechanical and materials engineering faculty member; and Todd Rosenstiel, of the school’s biology faculty, received the $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The trio’s project also is being supported by Portland General Electric, the city of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and the Oregon Built Environmental and Sustainable Technologies Center.
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Turning off the Lights: Hiring an Energy Manager Could be Key to Saving Money, Environment
By Wolf Donat, The Daily Vanguard
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Noelle Studer-Spevak believes that Portland State University needs an energy manager. One has merely to walk by the Millar Library or ASPSU office at 3 a.m. and see that all of the lights are on in order to agree with her. Studer-Spevak, the sustainability manager in the Finance and Administration Office, has been working to figure out how to add a Certified Energy Manager to the staff at PSU.
Certified Energy Managers are becoming more popular worldwide, serving industry, business and government. CEMs are professionally certified by the Association of Energy Engineers. Their job duties normally entail analyzing and mitigating energy usage. They track usage an implement new technologies and design changes in order to increase the efficiency of energy system operations.
One of the CEM’s duties would be to help Portland State honor its signing of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. The commitment, involving more than 600 universities and signed by former Portland State President Daniel Bernstine, promises that the participating universities will make efforts to become climate-neutral as soon as possible.
Intermediate steps toward the climate-neutrality goal would include overhauling the energy plan currently in place and coming up with a series of long-range steps toward the goal of climate neutrality. One of the issues that Studer-Spevak is facing is that in the face of a budget shortfall, the university has instituted a hiring freeze, meaning that an energy manager could not be hired. However, the university has also cut the utility budget, “and I’m not sure how we can cut the utility budget without someone to manage those cuts,” Studer-Spevak said. She knows that there are a multitude of things that can be done to save money and energy.
“In the past year, there have been several large projects we’ve done to save energy,” she said. “One of them is to replace all of the broken steam traps on campus.” The steam loops, like those surrounding Cramer Hall, transport steam from different boilers around campus in order to heat the buildings. “It’s been years since they were maintained,” Studer-Spevak said. Another maintenance project currently underway is cleaning the coils used to transmit heat. Dirt and dust tend to build up around the coils, significantly decreasing their efficiency.
While she wasn’t sure of the precise amount of money saved by the maintenance work, she said it was substantial. Though she would like to see that money go toward other energy-saving projects, “the money will be swept into other areas that need money.” “Our hope is that someday we can get to what Harvard does, and have a revolving fund. If we have energy savings one year, a portion of those savings will be funneled back into other energy-saving projects,” she said.
Student Senator Pro-Tempore Heather Spalding - recipient of a 2009 Oregon Campus Compact Faith Gabelnick Student Leadership Award - works with Studer-Spevak. “It’s like getting an oil change in your car,” Spalding said. “Spending the money for maintenance … it’s like a royalty. Once you put these things in place, the benefits just last and last.”
Studer-Spevak estimated that the salary for a CEM would run from $80,000-$100,000 per year. But she stressed that “that person would pay back their salary at least three times over. It’s an investment.” Studer-Spevak and Spalding are in the midst of holding meetings with the Student Fee Committee, looking at the possibility of having student fees cover the cost of an energy manager’s salary, or at least help fund smaller projects often overlooked by funding committees.
“Students are interested in creating a fund that could fund energy retrofits, for example,” Studer-Spevak said. “It’s really cool, because students are saying, ‘What do we have the power to do?'"
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World Environmental Awards Recognize Portland Nonprofit, Efforts Staffed by PSU Students and Faculty
By Abby Haight, OregonLive
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Green Empowerment is a Portland-based nonprofit which has been recognized at the Energy Globe Awards in Prague for installing solar-powered water systems in remote communities in Nicaragua. The projects were staffed by specially trained students and faculty members from Portland State University.
The environmental awards, founded in 1999, reward projects that create economic use of resources and employ alternative energy sources. More than 800 projects from 111 nations vie for awards in five categories -- Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Youth. The awards opened a meeting of European Union environment ministers in Prague. Border Green Energy Team, a Thai partner of Green Empowerment, won first prize in the Fire category and the audience-elected overall Grand Prize for solar powered clinics in Eastern Myanmar.
Green Empowerment helped design and put in place the 35 remote clinics and two large hospitals, which serve 175,000 people and are designed to be disassembled if the Myanmar junta's military approaches. The clinics are scattered over 600 miles of jungle. Green Empowerment also was a finalist in the Water category for its work with partner Asofenix in Nicaraguan villages, installing solar-based water delivery systems. With access to clean water, communities improved their overall health, while adding latrines, showers, biogas digesters and home gardens. The Portland nonprofit also is involved in a project that brought electricity to remote Peruvian villages through wind turbines, micro-hydro and solar installations, providing power to four rural clinics, nine schools, four community centers and 40 family homes.
Green Empowerment was founded in 1997 with a focus on social justice, environmentalism and internationalism. One of its first projects was continuing the micro-hydro efforts in Nicaragua started by Ben Linder, a young Portland engineer who was killed by Contras. The organization has also projects in Borneo, Philippines, Ecuador, Guatemala and on the border of Myanmar/Thailand.