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Keeping the lights on at Lewis & Clark

October 08, 2001

With its bills for electricity and natural gas averaging $63,700 per month and electricity rates for non-residential use increasing 54 percent, Lewis & Clark is examining everything from lighting to building design to find ways to conserve energy.

“My job is to make sure we don’t spend any more than we have to for energy,” says Richard Bettega, associate vice president for facilities.

He notes that lighting is the single largest use of electricity for the College.

To guard against projected energy price increases, the College replaced outdoor incandescent and mercury vapor lights with metal halide lamps, which use less electricity and produce a whiter light.

In the Forest residence hall complex, crews replaced incandescent bulbs in bedside reading lamps with fluorescent lights and replaced other light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights.

In addition, workers replaced incandescent and fluorescent bulbs in exit signs with light emitting diodes, which are more efficient and typically last 25 years.

Designs for new campus buildings use natural lighting to reduce the need for electric lights. Not only does natural lighting reduce energy costs, but studies show that natural lighting improves worker productivity.

The new addition of Lewis & Clark’s law library will use 34 percent less electricity than the minimum Oregon Energy Code requirements, according to Anne Wachsler, project manger for campus planning at the College.

“We estimate that the law school will save 92,000 kilowatt-hours each year—enough energy to power nearly eight homes,” she says.

Soderstrom Architects accomplished this feat by incorporating an energy-efficient ventilation system, a water-cooled chiller, and extensive use of natural light to reduce the need for electric lighting.

Switching to more energy-efficient products can be expensive at first, but the College expects financial savings in the long run, according to Bettega. Currently, Lewis & Clark is implementing conservation projects that will pay for themselves in energy savings within a five-year period.

“Last winter, natural gas prices were up 35 percent, so it helped that it was a warm winter,” Bettega says.

Now that conservation measures are in place, Bettega thinks the College will save money if the coming winter is as warm as last year’s. On the other hand, the energy bill could increase if Oregon experiences a cold winter.

Lewis & Clark implemented its energy conservation plan 10 years ago. For example, it adjusted temperatures on air conditioning/heating systems, replaced incandescent lights with T-12 fluorescent lights and ballasts, replaced old motors in ventilation systems with more energy-efficient motors and placed small boilers in residence halls to heat domestic water when the boiler for the main heating system is not in use. Changes such as these saved more than 2.7 million kilowatt hours and garnered a PGE Power Smart Energy Efficiency Award from Portland General Electric in 1994. Bettega expects to see more savings as current steps to improve energy performance take effect.

“What it really comes down to,” Bettega explains, “is that the best way to save energy dollars is to reduce use.”

—by Kathy Carlson ’00


Natural gas use at Lewis & Clark

The College’s use of natural gas fluctuates with the weather. In the mid-’90s, the College constructed a new, high-efficiency heating plant and three energy-efficient buildings, which helped reduce demand for natural gas during cold weather.

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