Eastern Michigan University sustainability initiatives take another big step forward after serving as a beta site for new energy efficient windows

New window installations part of broad sustainability effort involving areas such as academic facilities, power generation and lighting

Workers install new high tech glass in some buildings around campus.

YPSILANTI – Students and faculty in a variety of Eastern Michigan University classrooms are enjoying improved temperature comfort, better lighting and noise control, thanks to the donation and installation of a special high tech glass produced by a Michigan company.

Guardian Vacuum IGunits, manufactured by Guardian Glass, were installed in window panes in the Sherzer, Quirk and Briggs classroom buildings this academic year. The project is part of a broad sustainability effort at the University.

The University participated as a beta or test site for the installation of Guardian Vacuum IG, which can bring significant benefit for retrofits in older, historical buildings. The glass is actually two panes of glass sandwiched together, and designed to replace the thin single pane float glass found in most older buildings.

Bob Densic, manager of planning and design for EMU’s physical plant says the special glass showed immediate benefits around campus.

Bob Densic
Bob Densic, manager of planning and design for EMU’s physical plant

“We’re seeing gains across the board,” Densic said. “There is more uniform light distribution and sound transmission is down considerably in the classrooms.”

In fact, on one of the coldest days of the year, sensor readings indicated a 12-degree difference between the Guardian Vacuum IG versus the standard single pane installed next to it.

“We’ve have already had responses from the faculty in these various classrooms and studios,” Densic said. “They’ve been quick to point out that the rooms feel more comfortable to them, that there is decreased noise from outside and that the light is better in the room.”

Densic says the University will continue to collect data as part of the six-month study process, and will likely continue to use the special panes as it continues to replace windows on campus in the months to come.

“Going forward, this is going to be a tremendous product,” he said. “Not only something that we will use, but that everybody all across the industry will start to utilize.” (View a video about the project.)

Eastern Michigan’s sustained energy savings efforts have accelerated the past two years as several new, major projects have come on-line, putting the University among the state of Michigan’s leaders in terms of sustainability.

Overseeing these efforts is the recently established Sustainability Commission, established by President James Smith. The commission, chaired by Thomas Kovacs, a distinguished professor of meteorology and an authority on Eastern’s campus environment, is charged with working with various University units to assess Eastern’s sustainability efforts and make recommendations on how to become more sustainable.

"President Smith has been a strong supporter of sustainability, as evidenced by his creation of the President's Sustainability Commission and the acceleration of energy savings projects,” Kovacs said. “This (windows) project is a perfect example of executing the Commission's mission by partnering with local businesses to seek environmental benefits and energy savings that benefit all equally.

“As the Commission continues to objectively assess the university's level of sustainability, we are becoming increasingly aware that Eastern Michigan University is among the leaders of sustainability in higher education."

The recent, major efforts include:

Strong Hall: The completion in January 2019 of Strong Hall, a LEED certified building that is the third and final phase of the Science Complex. The project involved the complete renovation and addition of a crucial facility that houses numerous labs for STEM classes and incudes a wide variety of environmentally sensitive features, including a bio swale, retention area, and energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems.

The Co-Generation Energy System, which represents a dramatic change in how power is delivered throughout the EMU campus by reducing utility costs and greenhouse gas emissions. In winter 2018, the University activated its new energy saving 55-ton cogeneration unit, which supplies approximately 98 percent of the heat and 93 percent of the electricity to Eastern's 800-acre campus. Cogeneration is a combined heat and power system that uses one fuel source, in this case natural gas, to simultaneously produce electricity and steam heat.

 The project will achieve annual net energy savings to the University of more than $2.8 million, or more than $50,000 a week, creating a return on investment in just under nine years. In addition, the project reduces carbon dioxide emission by more than 21,000 tons annually while decreasing nitrogen oxides by more than 110 tons annually.

• Natural gas purchase: In spring 2017, the University signed a five-year natural gas forward purchase agreement associated with the new Co-Generation system. The agreement provides savings from an estimated $4.50 per cubic foot to $3.38, a savings of nearly 30 percent. Then, last June, the EMU Board of Regents approved the University’s signing of an additional five-year agreement, set to offer savings of more than 46 percent stemming from a price reduction of $5.22 per cubic foot to $2.80.

Rynearson Stadium Lighting Project: In June of 2016, the Board of Regents approved the installation of new LED lights at Rynearson Stadium, at a cost of $1.3 million. The installation of new lights addressed critical safety issues, provides necessary lighting for night TV coverage, alleviating rental needs; and allows the University to run the lights longer than before at a far cheaper rate. The new lights have resulted in an annual savings of more than $130,000, with a payback on the project of less than 10 years.

Such energy savings efforts have already garnered significant and widespread recognition. Last fall, Eastern received an award from the State of Michigan Energy Consortium. In partnership with DTE, the University was also presented the Energy Solution Center’s Partnership Award for Innovative Energy Solutions.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

March 27, 2019

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom