Water Sustainability on Campus – Opportunities for Education, Facilities Management, and (Gasp!) Saving Money
UAB's Red Mountain Project, modeled on The Piedmont Project of Emory University, provides grant support to faculty for enhancing existing courses or creating new courses with sustainability themes. Our presentation will review a new Red Mountain Project focused on UAB's critical needs for increasing volumes of non-potable water. Although perhaps underappreciated by most students and faculty, water that flows through our campus ecosystem touches all aspects of university life. UAB emphasizes openness of operational and construction initiatives to faculty and students for research and engagement to promote the campus as a living laboratory.
Our sustainability project originated with UAB's increasing needs for water as its population and facilities continue to grow. UAB is an urban institution that is now the largest employer (over 21,000 employees) in the state of Alabama. The campus is home to more than 200 buildings and over 16 million square feet of space in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. At UAB, many different facilities require temperature control and frequent air exchanges, including acute-care hospital facilities, animal care facilities, research laboratories, and of course, classrooms and offices. Temperature control is provided by the closed loop chilled water and central steam systems. UAB has invested in systems for capturing and recirculating water from the fins of a condensate cooler system. But as the institution's needs and costs for water increase, UAB is evaluating for use the tapping of groundwater in shallow aquifers from below the campus.
A study of our institution's water systems will provide multiple opportunities for 1) faculty development and student learning in a broad array of courses (e.g., introductory geoscience, biology, economics, health services), 2) public awareness of institutional dependence on water, a critical urban resource, and 3) an exemplar that may be modeled at other colleges and universities because of common institutional needs for water.