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Room scheduling for efficiency and sustainability: On BE=HALF of resource savings

09/02/2010

Making efficient use of Miami's buildings saves money and promotes sustainability. This is the idea behind the BE=HALF Project: Building Efficiencies = Hall Accessibility and Less Fuel. In the past, thousands of classes, meetings and other events have been scattered across campus, particularly in the evening and on weekends. Each of these buildings had to be lighted and heated/cooled at high levels, even if only a few rooms were used.

There is a better way: The Classroom Enhancements Council -- with representatives from the provost’s, registrar’s and academic divisional offices, as well as physical facilities and IT services -- has proposed consolidating these functions into fewer and more efficient buildings whenever possible. By assigning evening and weekend events to the most energy-efficient spaces, the university can reduce fuel consumption, save $200,000 annually, and reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Because Miami’s classrooms all have minimum technology standards, instructional support is the same. And with many newer or renovated spaces the comfort is similar. “By focusing classes and events in the most efficient buildings,” notes Dave Sauter registrar, “BE-HALF helps classroom selection combine technology, comfort, and considerable energy savings.”

This effort is unfolding in phases. Energy savings strategies have been developed to minimize consumption after normal building hours, and a study has shown which buildings are most heavily requested, ranking them in terms of efficiency. With this information, building assignments are now prioritized in descending order: events are scheduled whenever possible into the most efficient ‘first-tier’ buildings (such as Benton, engineering, psychology, and Farmer) and then into ‘second-tier’ buildings that may be less efficient but operate on a 24/7 schedule. User preference will still be important, but within this priority scheme. Because savings in some buildings may be offset by increased usage elsewhere, savings and changing needs like custodial support and maintenance of furnishings and floor coverings will be tracked carefully.

By thinking smarter about how to operate the campus, the BE=HALF project aims to make university operations more efficient without sacrificing Miami’s high quality of curricular and co-curricular life. “It’s been a very rewarding experience to work with representatives from key service units across the University,” says Dick Pettit, associate provost, “finding a win/win solution that meets the need of our student organizations for quality meeting space while also saving valuable resources.”

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