Spotlight Projects

  • F&S Dumpster Pilot Program

    Oct 26, 2015

     dumpsterF&S knows how much waste is generated on campus in total, but doesn’t know specifically from where it is coming. That could soon change. At the suggestion of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, F&S is piloting a program to measure the quantity of trash in individual dumpsters.

    Small, yellow wireless sensors, which can monitor the amount of waste inside, will be attached to the lids of eight dumpsters. With the push of a few computer buttons, Morgan Johnston, F&S director of Sustainability, and Tracy Osby, coordinator of Waste Management, will be able to access real time fill-up measurements right at their desks.

    Armed with the data, F&S hopes to better understand where campus waste is coming from and use the information to improve campus recycling. Illinois currently has an 85%
    diversion rate (how much waste is diverted from the landfill) for solid waste overall, but its municipal rate, which measures waste from campus buildings, is just 31%.

    “We can definitely do better and these numbers will be the core of improving our diversion rate,” Johnston said.  “Our goal is to get municipal waste up to a 45% diversion by FY20.”

    Garbage MonitorThe pilot program also will help F&S determine how else the sensors could be utilized if they were installed in all campus dumpsters. For now, though, the information will only be
    analyzed in terms of recycling.

    “We could target specific buildings that have less recycling and institute programs to change behavior,” Johnston said of the collected data. “An awareness of waste habits in comparison to peers can also make a huge change.”

    Ultimately if the pilot goes well, F&S will seek to identify sources of funding to expand the program to the entire
    campus, she said.

  • Japan House Bridge

    Sep 23, 2015

    Japanese Bridge According to Japanese myth, by walking on a crooked bridge one can avoid evil spirits that flow in straight lines. If that is the case, visitors to the University of Illinois’ Japan House gardens should have nothing to fear because the bridge that F&S helped build there is not straight.

    Instead the “yatsuhashi” features angles that form a jog in the structure. Yatushasi translates to “eight bridges” because traditionally the bridges were built from eight wooden planks.

    The Japan House yatsuhasi has a few more than eight wooden planks, but still contains a jog in the middle as well as other traditional features.

    Built to honor Kimiko Gunji, the former director of Japan House, the cedar bridge was funded by donations made when Gunji retired in 2011.

    “We decided that having something permanent on the grounds to honor Kimiko would be most fitting,” said Cynthia Voelkl, assistant director of Japan House. “She was really the one who made this permanent facility happen. We wanted it to be something really special, and a bridge was something we always thought would be perfect in these gardens.”

    Once the funds were raised, F&S managed the bid process and construction of the structure. Capital Programs project manager Jim Sims was involved with the bidding of the project before it was turned over to Construction Services where it ultimately was managed by Josh Rubin.

    bridgeJapan House gardener Jim Byers created the design for the bridge and wanted to build something as Japanese as possible. He also hand-carved the bird cutouts on either the side of the bridge.

    “Jim didn’t want an arched bridge, which you sometimes see, because that is actually more of a Chinese feature,” Voelkl said. “He wanted it to be strictly Japanese, and the jog in it was important to him.”

    When the original construction bid came back over budget, changes had to be made to the design, ultimately pushing back its construction from last summer until July of 2015.

    “Trying to match the cost of the design with keeping the bridge as traditional as possible was a long, slow process,” Voelkl said. “Everybody we dealt with at F&S was so respectful of Japan House and its aesthetics. Obviously it’s not a bridge you would build somewhere else on campus. There were a lot of considerations, and everyone we worked with was really thoughtful, and we really appreciate it.”

    With the bridge finally complete at a cost of approximately $136,000, the Japan House staff is looking forward to showing it off to the campus and community.

    “I think it’s going to become a really loved feature of the arboretum and the campus in general,” Voelkl said. “I foresee lots of wedding pictures and things over there. It’s the first step in the further development of these gardens.”

  • Retrocommissioning

    Aug 26, 2015

    Ceramics houseThe Ceramics Kiln House hosts instructional lab classes for the Department of Material Science and Engineering daily during the school year, but the laboratories are unoccupied during the evenings, weekends, and summer. This somewhat predictable schedule made the Kiln House labs ideal candidates for scheduling and energy conservation measures.

    In keeping with the university’s Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) goal of energy conservation, Karl Helmink, Guy Grant, and the Retrocommisioning team contacted Nicole Robards, Kiln House instructional lab coordinator, about possible laboratory retrofits that would reduce energy use and promote greater safety.

    A chemical fume hood (CFH) is an exhaust system specially designed to limit exposure to hazardous chemical vapors and dusts from anything being used inside the hood. CFH exhaust fans in the Kiln House ran 24 hours a day, even though they were only needed for limited periods of time, sometimes with no use for weeks or months at a time. There was not a mechanism to turn off the exhaust fans during idle times. After a detailed study of the lab, the retrocommissioning team installed controls to the existing exhaust systems, allowing 10 fume hoods to reduce exhaust airflow and even be turned off when not in operation. The building control systems were also modified so that the airflow supply is coordinated with the exhaust.

    Occupancy sensors, which automatically turn off lights and shut down the air handling and air conditioning system when the space is not occupied, were also added. To ensure the changes would not affect overall safety in the labs, an assessment was made to determine a high and low point temperature for optimal chemical storage. At the conclusion of a lab class, chemicals are moved from the fume hoods to storage cabinets, which typically require a much lower exhaust rate, thus allowing the exhaust system to be turned off. In conjunction with the retrocommissioning, a chemical inventory was conducted, and old or unused chemicals were evaluated and removed via the Division of Research Safety Waste collection.

    “Our operations are streamlined and more efficient with a higher level of chemical safety thanks to the retrocommissioning projects completed,” Robards said.

    The retrocommissioning updates are expected to yield an annual savings of approximately $40K per year.