Philadelphia University is a national climate action leader with innovative sustainability degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The BS in Environmental Sustainability prepares students for careers as sustainability managers, while building their skills in life-cycle assessment, carbon accounting, and geographic information systems. The MS in Sustainable Design features a collaborative transdisciplinary approach to discover solutions to climate change in the built environment. Students lead multidisciplinary design charrettes early in the design process aimed at reaching zero carbon built environment solutions. These projects are based in the real world at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with client representation from Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and Liberty Property Trust. The program has received education awards for its innovation from USGBC and the National Institute of Building Science.
Other programs at the University have mirrored this commitment to climate change; student teams from the Bachelors of Architecture program just won first and second prizes in the 2016 Race to Zero Competition hosted by the Department of Energy. Perhaps more importantly, students routinely participate in pro-bono green design build projects for clients such as the Weavers Way Coop, the Schuylkill Environmental Education Center and Awbury Arboretum. The Landscape Architecture program consistently focuses on designing for a sustainable built environment in a number of underserved local communities including the Germantown, East Falls, and Parkwest sections of Philadelphia. Lastly, the University has launched a 12-credit course sequence with Honeywell to teach students how to use and manage building energy management systems.
Innovation is not just a buzzword at Philadelphia University–addressing climate concerns through innovative methods is a primary component of the campus operations and the experiential approach to education at the undergraduate, graduate and co-curricular levels. The facilities have become living laboratories, from the 2012 collaborative sustainable landscape master plan, to the building automation system that is used in real time within engineering classes, to the design of the two most recent new buildings, which both attained LEED gold status.
Each spring for the past 5 years the university has hosted a three day Sustainability Forum, open to the public, and run by the student sustainability clubs: Students Organized for Sustainable Action (SOSA) and our student chapter of the USGBC. The students select a different theme for the Forum each year: energy, water, food, and transportation have been past topics. This year’s topic was sustainability entrepreneurship and PhilaU graduate Morgan Berman, the creator of the “My MilkCrate” sustainability app, was a featured speaker. The app has now launched in six cities and enhances the user’s ability to live sustainably.
Our Architecture students recently placed 1st and 2nd in the Department of Energy’s 2016 “Race to Zero Design Competition,” which inspires students to become the next generation of building science professionals. The university faculty and staff speak on sustainability topics at national conferences, and the students have become champions of their sustainable beliefs. The operations and curricula are at the forefront of climate action and the results are gratifying.
Philadelphia University committed to ACUPCC with an ideal that an important part of long term permanent sustainability requires a sustainable business plan. Partnering with Honeywell the university piloted their Act!Earth program for higher education; creating campus wide buy-in and a climate action plan that is sequenced to provide operational margins that fund the plan.
On the supply side the University tracks historical usage of all fuel, and now monitors power in real time. These efforts allowed the University to commence to buy longer term contracts that provided budget margins. Portions of the margins are returned for the University’s general capital needs, but a substantial portion are set aside for sustainability and efficiency initiatives.
The university initially invested in building automation and demand control. Partnering with a demand aggregator the University has created another income stream coming from rebates for synchronous reserve, and emergency demand, when the PJM grid becomes jeopardized. These rebates have been sufficient to pay back the improvement’s capital investment, and have now become the income source that pays the premium for 100 % green power
These initiatives have allowed the university to lower its utility costs while reducing its carbon footprint by 44%.
The university’s longer term plan migrates its fuel portfolio away from fossil fuels. Five years into the plan, 2016 will be a year where energy pay-back will support a project of $1.4 million dollars that upgrades HVAC systems to water sourced heat pumps, removes over 20,000 gallons of UST’s, and further reduces utility demand.