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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Air conditioning yields frosty students, empty coffers”

There is a clear consensus when it comes to air conditioning at the UA: Unless you’re from the Arctic, it’s too damn cold. Occasionally, when strolling outside the Student Union Memorial Center past the UofA Bookstore entrance, a cool breeze wafts over you, enticing you to enter the shady depths of over-priced madness. Beware, my friends; don’t stay too long or your arrectores pilorum — the muscles that control your hair follicles and create goose bumps — might activate.

The bookstore, the UA Main Library and the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center are the buildings with the most egregious over-air-conditioned offenses, routinely freezing students with sub-70s temperatures. If going to the ILC to study, you’d better come prepared with a sweater or maybe a beanie. Either way, you’re in for a chill that would send shivers down an Eskimo’s spine.

Braving the arctic tundra-like conditions is not even the chief concern. One has to wonder, with such a freeze, what the economic and environmental impacts would be if Facilities Management decided to raise the temperatures of buildings all across campus by only a couple of degrees. The logic seems simple: Turn up the thermostats of all the buildings on campus just a little, make students and faculty more comfortable and in the process save money on what has to be a titanic electric bill.

I contacted Director of Facilities Management Chris Kopach to try and get some information about how much the UA spends a month on electricity, hoping to test my hypothesis that a large portion of electricity, especially at this time of the year, goes toward keeping our classes icy. But when Kopach heard my topic, he was perturbed and insisted that I couldn’t only be negative on the subject.

Concluding our conversation, he said he would call me the following day with some of the information I requested. Whether by design or accident, he did not. I have no desire to muckrake; however, this non-reply highlights what could easily be a sticking point with the university — ignorance of a simple change that could save a boatload of money.

Since the information could not be obtained, I had to calculate it myself. The UA has 185 buildings on campus as of the 2007-08 academic year. For our region and extreme temperatures, one can estimate that about every 2,700 square feet requires a tonnage of 5 from a standard air conditioner. Extrapolate this data to the average square feet per building at the UA, which I have set at a very conservative 15,000 per building, considering several buildings including the Gould-Simpson building and the University Medical Center have to top out at well over 100,000 square feet, and you get an average of 27 tons per building. Take this tonnage and an energy efficiency rate of 11.0, which again is extremely conservative given that many of the buildings on campus are very old, add in the 2,000 hours of usage per year for our hot region and Tucson Electric Powers’ charge of roughly $0.07 per kilowatt-hour and you get a per building average of $4,124 per year. Now multiply that by 185 buildings and the result is that the UA spends $762,940 dollars per year from air conditioning alone.

Again, these estimates err on the extremely conservative side, and certainly my error ratio is substantial, but $762,940 is a lot of money. Imagine how many thousands of dollars could be saved with just a couple of degrees.

There are commendable things that the UA has done to help save energy and push green initiatives, the most notable being the progressive architecture, including awnings and window shades to help eliminate a greenhouse effect, keeping buildings cool without the need of air conditioning. Additionally, Kopach said the UA was in the process of converting many buildings to a computer system that would include the turning off of air conditioning in the evening, until the next morning. Already 22 auditoriums have been converted.

That’s a good start, but still doesn’t solve the problem of the chilling daytime temperatures indoors. I’m not asking for anything special — just a little less cold, as the sentiment of my fellow students will confirm.

— Brett Haupt is a journalism junior. He can be reached at letters@email.arizona.edu.

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