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UNC looks to save energy by funding sustainability projects

Leaders discuss using funds to improve campus conservation.

University officials are set to spend $500,000 from a reserve fund to improve campus sustainability and save money at the same time.

The University’s cash management pool, a fund made up of hundreds of millions of dollars, will fund the projects, which will enhance conservation on campus.

Despite the large cost, the improved facilities will ultimately save the University money and offset all of the costs, replenishing the fund entirely, said those involved in the effort.

“Essentially we’re going to borrow money and then pay it back, but we won’t need to do that because the money will repay itself,” said Dick Mann, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

Stewart Boss, who has been spearheading the project with Student Body President Mary Cooper, said making money is not out of the question either.

“After the research we’ve done, we’ve seen schools come out of these revolving funds with up to 30 percent return on the investment,” Boss said.

The funds can go to any energy conservation projects, including some from the $600 million in deferred maintenance projects on University buildings.

Boss said financial restraints have caused the University to postpone maintenance on about 20 buildings.

“Obviously, as the oldest public university in the country, we have some very old buildings on campus, so there’s always plenty of work to do to reduce energy waste and improve energy efficiency,” Boss said.

Mann said the necessary maintenance is mainly in heating and air conditioning services around campus, but some of the problems are more severe.

“Structural problems are always a reality, but it’s not like any roofs are going to be collapsing into buildings any time soon,” he said.

“At the same time, we are hoping that doesn’t happen because we don’t have the money to fix an entire building.”

Boss said fixing maintenance issues would be beneficial to the University.

“The maintenance fee is really what the University needs to start chipping away at,” Boss said. “It’s a win-win because students are happy, and in the long run we’ll be conserving resources.”

Cooper said this is a practical opportunity to conserve.

“This spotlights how we are leaders in environmental conservation,” Cooper said. “We will do whatever we can to save energy.”

Although the funds have yet to be allocated, projects are already being discussed and will be proposed at a Sept. 7 meeting with Mann.
“A lot of small, realistic changes are better than one big, overwhelming change,” Mann said.

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