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University presents sustainable energy plans

| Thursday, October 6, 2016

As part of Notre Dame’s Energy Week, senior director of utilities and maintenance Paul Kempf discussed the University’s approach to sustainability at a presentation Wednesday afternoon.

“The strategy the University has had is to reduce our carbon footprint, and there are a lot of ways to do that,” Kempf said. “It’s putting new infrastructure in place, and we’re trying to do that. Our long term goal is to decrease our carbon footprint by 83 percent [from 2005 levels] by 2050. I hope I’m not here in 2050, but it’s important to be setting those goals.”

Kempf said that, as the Notre Dame campus grows, the focus on sustainability is becoming increasingly important.

“This campus is growing, and I don’t think that’s going to change,” he said. “I think it will continue.”

Currently, 80 percent of buildings on campus are heated by the power plant at the heart of campus, Kempf said.

“There’s about 8.3 miles of tunnels around campus that pass through steam and such to the buildings,” he said. “The benefits of a central plant is that you have a lot of facilities right here on campus. It’s very efficient.”

While the current system of heating campus is efficient and effective, Kempf said the University is starting to try and move away from some of its less environmentally-friendly practices — for environmental, social and economic reasons.

“Oftentimes when we come to the table to look at conservation, we see it as a cost,” he said. “It’s like you want to buy that shiny new car instead of insulating your house, as an example.”

The conversations Kempf and his team were having with engineers and scientists led to a discussion with the administration about moving towards more sustainable energy.

“We said, ‘You know, this is an investment. We see more sustainable energy coming down the line, you should see it coming too,’” he said.

So, as a result, the University has started to shift some of its energy practices, working to align with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, Kempf said.

“We have nine buildings that are LEED certified, which is about 8.2 percent of campus square footage,” he said. “We’ve got seven buildings that we’re trying to get LEED certified — so that number is going to grow.”

Additionally, Kempf said the University is trying to diversify the types of fuel used on campus.

“We have always had that fuel diversity, so we’ve taken advantage of that without actually modifying much of our equipment,” he said. “So we’ve gone from using coal and natural gas, to using about 80 percent natural gas. … As Fr. John [Jenkins] said, we’re going to be completely off coal by 2020.”

Fortunately, the location of Notre Dame is well-suited to sustainable energy use, Kempf said.

“We’re lucky when you think about where Fr. Sorin thought to set us up,” he said. “We’ve used the lakes more than I think anyone could have predicted. I’m sure he wasn’t thinking that in the 1840s, but sometimes you just get lucky.”

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall and is currently serving as an Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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