We call for a complete moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure—save for emergency replacements. In particular, we demand that:
Any new construction on a UW campus does not include any fossil fuel infrastructure. This includes avoiding gas ranges or gas ovens in cooking facilities in favor of non-fossil fuel alternatives. Any new construction on a UW campus achieves LEED Platinum certification. As per the UW Green Building Standards, a LEED Gold certification is the minimum target sustainability rating for new constructions. We believe this benchmark can be increased to LEED’s maximal sustainability rating of platinum. For significant renovations (greater than 50%) of any UW facility, we demand that fossil fuel infrastructure in the facility be replaced with non-FF alternatives.
UW Environmental Stewardship Committee Schools and Departments of the University of Washington
The Sustainability Climate Action Plan, released by the University of Washington in 2022, identifies ten goals with regard to increasing UW’s sustainability. Two of these ten goals are related to UW’s fossil fuel infrastructure: target 8, a 15% reduction of UW’s energy usage intensity by 2025, and target 10, a 45% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. As noted in demand 4, one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions on the UW Seattle campus (and one of the largest contributors in Washington state overall) is the UW power plant. Although greenhouse gas emissions may significantly decrease with the electrification of the power plant, we know that there are still significant benefits to be had in reducing the fossil fuel infrastructure in new and existing construction on UW campuses.
Q: Are these demands feasible?
In short, yes. The University has actually identified retrofitting older, more inefficient buildings as part of their plan to reduce energy consumption (SAP 2022). Furthermore, there are a lot of financial savings to be had from transitioning older, high-energy fossil fuel infrastructure to more efficient green infrastructure. While most green energy alternatives require a larger up-front investment, the financial gains made from energy conservation generally quickly surpass the initial investment. UW has already identified plans to retrofit older, less efficient buildings, including conservation projects across 30 campus buildings, and the UW Tower. Additionally, some of UW’s most recent constructions are free of fossil fuels, including Founder’s Hall. The Behavioral Health Teaching Facility at UW Medical Center Northwest is also FF-free, with the exception of the cooking facilities, which use natural gas. Although it may be expensive to implement the specifics of this demand, the benefits to both the climate and the UW population are well worth the investment.
Q: Why does it matter whether or not we have FF infrastructure on the UW campus?
Q: What are some realistic alternatives to FF infrastructure?
Ideally, UW would transition away from fossil fuels through a combination of becoming more energy efficient, and replacing FF infrastructure with green alternatives. Some options for UW construction and renovation:
Ensuring that all new construction has a high performance building envelope. A “building envelope” is a physical barrier between the external environment and the internal space of a building. A well-insulated building requires less energy to heat and cool. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/energy-efficient-building-envelope) Investing in solar energy. UW has already initiated Campus Solar Plans for the Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses. While solar likely will not suffice as the only form of energy to power all three campuses, it may serve to reduce the peak load demand for electricity. Use electric heat pumps as alternatives to natural gas heating systems. Heat pumps are much more energy efficient than natural gas heating systems, and also have the benefit of not using fossil fuels. Electric perimeter heating: UW Green Building Standards (2012):