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JHU pledges $73M to trim greenhouse gas emissions and create Office of Sustainability

The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has announced a $73 million plan that will cut its carbon dioxide emissions by more than half from projected levels by 2025.

The $73 million investment will be used in both conservation and efficiency measures that will reduce emissions caused by facilities operations by an initial 81,000 metric tons a year, which is more than halfway -- technically 57 percent -- to reaching the overall goal of cutting 141,000 metric tons from the 276,000 a year in emissions it would otherwise be generating 15 years from now.

The university will adopt new technologies as they become available in the next 15 years to achieve the remainder of the reduction. It will also encourage members of the university community to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact.

The emissions goal is part of a newly revealed broad, multi-faceted Implementation Plan for Advancing Sustainability and Climate Stewardship. The multi-pronged approach comes at the problem through several avenues, including research, education and community outreach in addition to greenhouse gas reduction.

"Global climate change is one of humanity's greatest challenges," says Ronald J. Daniels, JHU president. "The earth's rising temperatures will, over decades to come, affect where and how we live, the ecosystems we inhabit, our quality of life and even our health.

"Facing this challenge head-on is our shared responsibility, especially as residents of the developed world," Daniels continues. "But universities have a special role in our society and a special responsibility. We are institutions that discover, that educate and that, often, set an example. When it comes to global climate change, Johns Hopkins will be a leader in all three."

In addition to the sharp reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, the plan calls for the creation of an Environment, Sustainability and Health Institute, bringing together faculty members from across the university. Under the auspices of the newly created Institute the faculty members will be able to collaborate on research as well as on teaching climate change science and sustainability, to students including those participating in the university's new undergraduate major and minor in global environmental change and sustainability and new master's degree in energy policy and climate. Institute faculty members also will focus on applying science to environmental policy, to public health initiatives and to practical measures that individuals, organizations and businesses can take to fight global warming.

"Just as Johns Hopkins medical researchers move their discoveries off the lab bench to the patient's bedside to save lives," Daniels says, "this institute will take a bench-to-real-world approach: We will use discoveries to get things done."

The plan also includes establishment of a Sustainability House in a to-be-renovated building on North Charles Street at the university's Homewood campus that will serve as the headquarters for the university's Office of Sustainability and student environmental groups. The location will also act as a showcase and laboratory for energy conservation techniques and technologies. The design team, with students and faculty members participating, will be directed to include cutting-edge sustainability features and to meet aggressive goals, such as zero net carbon emissions, storm water capture and reuse, and organic maintenance of the grounds.

Another key component of the plan will put Johns Hopkins knowledge to work contributing to sustainability and climate change efforts in Baltimore City and the state of Maryland. One such effort, announced late last month, is a $190,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded collaboration with Baltimore City; Johns Hopkins students will be trained to conduct audits at nonprofit organizations in the city and help them determine how to cut energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The implementation plan is the result of months of detailed follow-up work on the March 2009 report of the university's President's Task Force on Climate Change. That report was the culmination of a year's work by Johns Hopkins faculty, administrators, students and trustees, as well as representatives of the Baltimore business, government and environmental communities.

"In response to a serious issue, we have taken a typically serious and thorough Johns Hopkins approach," Daniels said. "We have devoted the time and effort required to do this right: comprehensive data gathering, careful analysis and systematic planning."

The plan includes a building-by-building, campus-by-campus list of HVAC, electrical, and lab equipment improvements; lighting fixture and control upgrades; measures to make buildings more airtight; window replacements; installations of solar power panels and solar hot water equipment; water conservation measures; and other steps.

It targets laboratory research buildings in particular; often referred to as "heavy breathers," these buildings consume significant amounts of air that must be heated or cooled to satisfy temperature and humidity requirements.

Additional significant savings in carbon dioxide emission 32,000 metric tons a year and in energy costs will come from cogeneration plants being built on both the university's East Baltimore and Homewood campuses. The plants will burn relatively clean natural gas to produce both electricity and steam heat more cheaply and efficiently.

The final, and perhaps most important, aspect of the plan is an aggressive, sustained campaign to encourage students, faculty and staff to reduce energy consumption at work and at home. The university also will launch a parallel effort to find and implement new conservation opportunities in its energy-intensive information technology infrastructure, including desktop and mainframe computers, printers and monitors, and server farms. The IT professionals who will lead this effort will also look for other creative ways to improve the university's technology capability while reducing energy consumption.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Writer: Walaika Haskins

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