NAU cements climate commitment

John D. Haeger

NAU President¬†John Haeger’s¬†ongoing commitment to make campus greener became official this week as he joined more than 250 other college and university presidents in Washington, D.C., to adopt the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.

Created as an avenue for university leaders to define and address the challenges of climate change, the road to a greener NAU campus is well traveled.

“We are pleased to officially commit to developing the diversity of skills needed to reverse global warming,” Haeger said. “Northern Arizona University is a leader in climate change research and curriculum, and through collaborative efforts throughout campus we are assessing ways to reduce our own greenhouse emissions.”

In January, Haeger became a charter signatory of the climate commitment, assuming a role in the group’s Leadership Circle, which will include university and college presidents who will become the public face and lead supporters of the program.

NAU is a climate change contender. Projects to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases include the recently completed construction on a $1.3 million solar project that will power the new Applied Research and Development building.

“Stewardship of place is not a new concept for NAU,” Haeger noted. “Creating a sustainable campus has been a part of our strategic plan for the last three years.”

NAU already is working to meet energy conversation standards set by Gov. Janet Napolitano. She is requiring state agencies to reduce energy use by 10 percent per square foot by July 2008 and by 15 percent by July 2011. The university began its energy-saving program in 1999 by installing efficient lighting and lowering thermostats throughout campus.

The university is especially targeting new construction methods to reduce energy use.

NAU is upgrading and installing high-efficiency computers, boilers, more insulation and motion detectors that turn off lights after occupants leave the room. Even its new parking lots are going green. The parking area at the new ARD building, created from recycled materials, helps capture water for later landscaping use.

In further efforts to save water, the university is partnering with the city of Flagstaff to use reclaimed water for its irrigation systems and has decreased campus use of potable water by 90 percent. A number of university gardens continue to be converted to xeriscaping, requiring little or no water, and the campus is incorporating water-saving measures into its buildings.

NAU is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for the ARD building, its College of Business building and the Engineering building.

LEED, a national program managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, recognizes structures for meeting strict requirements for energy efficiency, material usage, renewable energy and local developed materials.

Students, faculty and staff also are players on the team to beat the challenge of climate change.

A new climate mitigation class took on the challenge last semester as students, staff, and faculty from six different departments and three different colleges around campus began working together to measure the university’s greenhouse gas “footprint” and then sought ways to make it smaller.

As a result, plans are being considered to incorporate biomass fuel as an alternate and renewable fuel on campus. Two biomass generators could burn wood particles to generate as much as 3 megawatts of electricity, which could meet one-third of NAU’s electrical needs.

“Our capital improvement choices will reflect on the ethics of creating a more sustainable environment,” Haeger said.