University awarded for sustainability efforts

Celene Vargas
Editorial Director

The University won an award Tuesday morning that recognizes its sustainability efforts that date back to summer 2013.

The honor comes from Facilities Maintenance Decis­ions Magazine at the National Facilities Management Tech­nology Conference in Las Vegas for retrofits and renovations.

“This has been a bit of a challenge for us,” said Robert Beebe, senior director of physical plant operations and services. “Most award-winning institutions are looking for multi-million dollar projects. We don’t have those kinds of budgets, but we’re making things far more impactful if you were to take that on a size ratio.”

The award looks at the institution as a whole and what it has done so far regarding energy-saving initiatives since its first three projects that began simultaneously in June 2013: converting parking lots D and E and the gymnasium into LED.

Beebe said the University originally filed for a different category but lost to a multi-million dollar institution that does federal research and receives federal money. However, the group honoring La Verne changed its category to retrofits and renovations because they felt the school’s work needed to be honored, he said.

Although there is no monetary compensation, Christine Broussard, co-chairwoman of the Sustainable Campus Consortium and chairwoman of the natural science division, said it legitimizes the school’s efforts.

“Historically the University has been an advocate for environmental sustainability,” she said. “This recognition is validation that it continues to be an important element for the institution.”

The money for these projects comes from an operational fund from facilities management. The project savings are taken from the utilities budget and put into a green revolving fund, which was implemented the year after the school signed up for Billion Dollar Green challenge in 2013 to track projects and show savings.

The challenge requires the school to spend one percent of its endowment on energy-saving initiatives in the first five years. That gives La Verne until 2018 to spend $400,000. To date, La Verne has spent almost $650,000 on initiatives, Beebe said.

“We’ve exceeded our goal, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop,” Beebe said.

The green revolving fund is still being used today. It puts a portion of the money from energy savings into a fund that will be collected for a few years so it can be used for future sustainable projects, which allows the fund to grow through future savings, Beebe said.

“We’re really proud of the work Robert Beebe and our facilities management division has done in terms of sustainable practices over the last several years,” said Chip West, assistant vice president of facilities and space management.

Since the conversion to LED, the school has also made the switch to solar panels, drought tolerant planting, other energy reduction projects and expanded recycling to name a few efforts.

“(The award) let’s us know we’re on the right track, that we’re a leader in sustainability,” West said. “Can we do more? Yes, and we will. We will continue to push and look for additional sustainable programs and initiatives to launch.”

Beebe was also asked to be a part of a panel for the convention to talk about the University’s efforts and answer questions.

“This is something I’m taking a lot of pride in. As far as one goes, we got a rather prestigious one,” Beebe said.

Celene Vargas can be reached at celene.vargas@laverne.edu.

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