That is a question the university’s Strategic Planning Committee for UH’s Energy Master Plan put forth and one that Mike Wheeler, Director of Projects & Technical Services, and Jai Ranganath, Director of Engineering Services, are tackling.
The duo is part of the committee and is spearheading the efforts to answer that question. Part of that question starts with what infrastructure the university needs to have in place to optimize its energy consumption as it grows and adds more buildings.
“How do we do that, so that we don’t find ourselves in a negative situation when a hurricane comes, or something like the freeze that happened [in 2021] and the whole grid shuts down,” said Wheeler.
Ranganath, who heads the committee, said the university has hired the consulting firm Jacobs Engineering to work on the campus’ energy plan. The team has shared some of its ideas with the consulting firm, which is tasked with recommending infrastructure projects including feasibility, costs, and phasing aspects.
The firm has gathered data from UH, as well as toured the campus to evaluate the electrical infrastructure; building heating, cooling, and ventilation systems; the mechanical infrastructure, the central plant, and the tunnel systems that UH uses for utility distribution across the campus.
“They are right now preparing the report based on their observations and analysis, and we expect the report to come up with several recommendations to improve our infrastructure and make our infrastructure more resilient, more reliable, and more sustainable in the future as this campus grows,” said Ranganath.
This effort will UH reduce its energy consumption which in turn will decrease its carbon footprint.
“There’s got to be some type of modern technology out there that we could capitalize on, to help us get to where we want to, to reduce our energy consumption and our energy costs, and still not reduce the service that we’re putting out to the campus and community,” said Wheeler.
The university’s energy plan is a long-term project, the first steps of which are underway. The implementation steps will follow once the committee receives the recommendations from the consultant.