The impending opening of the Engineering Sciences Building and the California Nanosystems Institute has UCSB staff and environmentalists concerned about the increase in power consumption the two buildings are expected to require.

Facilities managers estimate the $39 million Engineering Sciences Building and the $53 million Nanosystems Institute, both located on Mesa Road, will have an energy intake of one megawatt each. A total of two megawatts is a high consumption level in contrast with the approximately 12.5 megawatts used by the rest of the buildings on campus combined.

Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board Sustainability Chair Edward France said he attributes the high level of energy intake to the “clean rooms” built into each building. Clean rooms are facilities that control air intake and other conditions in order to maintain a sterile environment for the protection of precision equipment and the accuracy of experiments. They typically contain large fans and air pumps, and require large amounts of energy to power such machinery.

While it is possible to build energy-efficient and “green” clean rooms, France said such suggestions were not followed when the buildings were planned,

“A lot of people within the [UC] and this campus were forthcoming about building these,” France said. “There are ways to build them right, as far as keeping with the whole green building thing. There was no foresight and those policies just weren’t implemented.”

France said he thinks this lack of foresight is the result of pressure from private sponsors of the development.

“Especially with projects like Engineering and Nanotechnology – those projects have been awaited for years by engineers and sponsors outside the university,” France said. “They just want to get those built as soon as possible and they aren’t thinking about how it’s going to impact the rest of the campus. But we’re a 12-megawatt campus – we’re huge; we have all these huge buildings – and they’re adding one more building that by itself is a megawatt. That’s huge.”

Roger Monte, project manager for the two buildings, said energy concerns were not neglected during the planning and construction of the buildings, but certain aspects of their design could not be sacrificed for energy efficiency.

“The main objective whenever you do a building like this is to have close control over temperature and humidity,” Monte said. “You definitely pay a price for that from an energy standpoint to get that very close control. There are current ways of designing clean rooms, and this one is one of the more cost-effective when it comes to energy.”

Any attempt to make the buildings more energy-efficient would have compromised the objectives of the project’s planning, Monte said. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards offered little advice specific to the demands of the project. LEED certifications promote buildings that are environmentally sustainable, profitable and healthy places to live and work.

“If you look at clean room function, there’s nothing in the LEED guidelines associated with clean rooms,” Monte said. “At the time [the engineering building] was designed, the focus was on things like office space – general occupancy type of things – as opposed to very specific laboratory requirements. We did try to make it as energy-efficient as possible and still meet the program requirements. There has to be a trade-off.”

However, the trade-off may prove to be more than the university can financially afford. With utility prices expected to increase in the next year, the heightened consumption in electricity and utility usage fueled by the opening of the new buildings could pose serious financial strain to the university budget, Campus Energy Manager Jim Dewey said.

Current utility costs for the unopened Engineering Sciences Building are approximately $55 a day, Dewey said. Estimates for utility costs once the building is opened are around $160 a day.

In the face of next year’s budget cuts, Dewey said he wonders how the university can afford the high utility costs.

“We’re going to have to pay for the utilities no matter what, so the question becomes where that money is coming from,” Dewey said.

Martha Levy, director of capital development, budget and planning, said much of the funding for the construction and maintenance of both buildings comes from state and private research grants that have already been allocated. However, state budget cuts have decreased the amount of funding the university will receive.

“The planning and money spending for this is going to be as tight as we can get it,” Levy said. “It does mean that campus dollars will have to go toward paying this utility budget, but we’re trying to find ways to get that money together.”

Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services George Pernsteiner said any extra funds would most likely come from money saved from other areas of campus. While the 2004-05 budget is not yet finalized, which makes it impossible to determine from which areas such funding will come, Pernsteiner said the university’s success in energy conservation in other campus departments offers a promising source for the needed funds.

“Jim Dewey is doing some marvelous things in monitoring the energy use on campus in different buildings to let people know how much they’re using and to shut down operations as people leave,” Pernsteiner said. “We’ve really been able to conserve energy on campus. … It will have the side effect of meaning we have the money to spend on utilities for the new buildings, but the real reason is we’re just trying to use as little energy as we can.”

The Engineering Sciences Building is scheduled to open in fall 2004 and the California Nanosystems Institute is expected to be ready during the 2005-06 school year.