June 22, 2018
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Major energy improvements under way at University of Maine at Machias campus

Sharon Kiley Mack | BDN
Sharon Kiley Mack | BDN
Bob Farris, the facilities manager at the University of Maine at Machias, shows off a wall of energy-efficient windows installed at the Kilburn Commons dining facility over the summer. The wall was once single-pane glass which let so much sun in that the salad bar wilted. More than $450,000 in energy improvements were made at Kilburn Commons, with other projects throughout the campus, including retrofitting the former president's house to serve as the admissions' office. "We expect to save at least 25 percent of our oil costs here at Kilburn Commons — at least that," Harris said.
By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

MACHIAS, Maine — Bob Farris walked around the University of Maine at Machias’ campus Wednesday afternoon with a clipboard tucked under his arm and a forward-thinking attitude. He was talking energy: energy savings, energy use reduction, and energy reuse.

Farris, UMM’s director of physical facilities for the past five years, talks about boilers like many people casually converse about grocery shopping. He points to rain gutters, crawl spaces and shows off newly installed efficient boilers like a proud papa.

Farris’ work to “green” the UMM campus is paying off. Many of the latest improvements were funded through a $26.5 million bond approved by voters in June 2010. The bond was aimed at providing energy independence, efficiency and green jobs, with $15.5 million of the total earmarked for energy improvements at Maine’s public universities and colleges.

Deep underneath one of the dormitories, Sennett Hall, Farris pointed to an old boiler. “That boiler uses three gallons of oil per minute,” he said. Showing off a new energy efficient boiler, he said, “This one uses 1.4 gallons per minute.” The new one will be used at the dorm 80 percent of the time, he said. The older, “workhorse” boiler will kick in only when the outside temperature drops below zero.

“Last year, the university burned 141,000 gallons of oil,” Farris said. “And that represents a 30,000 gallon savings over the past four years.”

Still, on a campus where some of the buildings are 100 years old — one was built in 1820 — changes that go well beyond installing a new boiler are sometimes necessary. An energy audit was conducted, with students help, last year at the O’Brien House. The 191-year-old home was formerly the president’s residence but is being transformed into admission offices. At the house, Farris installed underground drains, ran fiber optic cables, installed a new boiler and insulated. New gutters are yet to be installed.

At Kilburn Commons, the campus dining hall, $475,000 in upgrades were recently completed which included a new energy efficient entrance and smaller windows. “We had only single-pane glass in this building,” Farris said. “They let so much light in, it was a problem for the salad bar.”

Other changes at Kilburn Commons, which was built in 1965, included replacing the old steam boiler with an energy-efficient hot water boiler, installing an energy management system to monitor and control the building’s heating system, and replacing the building’s aging roof. Excess heat from the kitchen is now being captured and recirculated back into the building.

“We burned 14,340 gallons of oil at Kilburn last year and we expect a 25 percent savings this year, at least,” Farris said.

At Dorward Hall, one inefficient thermostat was replaced with nine temperature sensors. This not only is more efficient, Farris said, but makes the dorms more comfortable for students. In the next few weeks, the Reynolds Center gymnasium boiler will be replaced with a new energy-efficient boiler and heating system.

“We set up a Green Campus Steering Committee about a year ago. It evolved from the original recycling committee,” Farris said. UMM has also hired a half-time sustainability coordinator to plan, implement and administer the campus sustainability program. There are also a four-season greenhouse and garden behind the O’Brien House that are overflowing with produce for the dining commons and local food pantry.

Farris said the campus team is currently looking at solar hot water and electricity systems, and small sustainable wind turbines.

To watch the energy usage at UMM on a daily basis, go to www.umm.maine.edu/sustainability.

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