DePaul's sustainability efforts go beyond the basics

Rachel Marciano
March 04, 2015

From designing LEED certified buildings to buying produce from local farms, DePaul has made sustainability a priority. Bob Janis, vice president of Facility Operations, and his team of Facility Operations directors and managers are dedicated to ensuring DePaul runs in the most efficient way possible, both environmentally and economically.

"Over the past few years, a lot of organizations have begun making an effort to be more energy efficient, which is great," Janis says. "Many people don't know that DePaul has been doing many of these things for decades. We've just always felt it was the right thing to do."

Whether through retro-renovations or completely new construction, DePaul customizes nearly every building with the most energy and cost efficient equipment available at the time. Building-automation systems not only automatically start and stop primary heating and cooling systems, but also monitor set temperatures in each building and adjust settings accordingly. All primary lighting fixtures are retrofitted with energy-saving fluorescent lamps. Security lighting at several locations on the Lincoln Park campus are powered by solar panels. There are currently four LEED certified buildings on DePaul's campuses, three gold and one silver.

In addition to saving energy and lowering the cost of future consumption, many of the projects were completed through grants or funds from outside organizations.

"The best part is that we're being environmentally conscious in a very economical way," Janis says. "The average pay-back for most of the projects we schedule is three to five years; many of them have paid for themselves within two."

Dining services is another focus area in DePaul's effort to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Annually, the Lincoln Park cafeteria alone produces 60 tons of compost material. Over the last several years the university increased its recycling diversion rate to nearly 50 percent.  Chartwells, the organization that provides food for DePaul, partners with more than 2,000 family farmers to purchase locally grown and raised food products, meaning that a significant portion of the products DePaul uses come from within a 150-mile radius of Chicago. No seafood products are purchased from aquafarms, and even eggs and egg products now come from cage-free chickens.

DePaul continues to improve its water conservation tactics. Storm water management systems are now in place at two locations, and storm water is used for irrigation. Additionally, water-saver hardware on sinks and showers, and a modified watering schedule have helped reduce the university's water consumption by 10 to 15 percent.

Students play a large part in DePaul's sustainability efforts as well. "Every year the Student Government Association proposes a list of improvements for Facility Operations to review," says Matthew C. von Nida, president of SGA. "We collaborate on projects to help determine which will make visible and beneficial impacts on reducing DePaul's carbon footprint."

Although DePaul's sustainability practices are advanced, Janis and the rest of the Facility Operations team continue to research projects that will further reduce energy consumption.

"It's an ongoing process," Janis says. "Every few years something new comes out and we need to adapt. But we're happy with what we've accomplished and with our current direction as well."

This is just a small sample of sustainability efforts at DePaul. To find more information and learn how you can get involved, visit the Facility Operations and Mission & Values websites.