Engineering students at University of Wisconsin-Platteville are learning even as they walk to classes around their brand-new $55 million engineering building, Sesquicentennial Hall. Glass walls and glass floors spread out in hallways offer glimpses of all the equipment students earning Sustainability and Renewable Energy Systems degrees will be working with once they graduate. For more than a decade, their university prioritized investing in a cleaner environment and a more efficient energy future, integrating these goals into the learning experience.
The school’s energy planning partnership with Focus on Energy and Alliant Energy is just one reason UW-Platteville is a 2023 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award recipient.
University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor, Dr. Tammy Evetovich isn’t taking the school’s 2023 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award lightly.
“Reducing energy costs, operating costs, and greenhouse gas emissions are our priority at our university,” Evetovich said at the award presentation. “It always has been and will be.
In 2022, facilities staff completed several large energy efficiency projects across the two million square foot campus.
“I just want to give a shout out to our facility staff,” Evetovich said. “They've been wonderful in making this a reality for us. It's no small task.”
Workers began installing air handling controls and lighting upgrades at several buildings while construction wrapped-up and the school opened Sesquicentennial Engineering Hall, UW-Platteville’s first LEED certified building.
This state-of-the-art facility is more than just classrooms. It functions as a teaching tool for engineering students. They are surrounded by the tools they will use and can watch the mechanics of those tools in action because some of the walls and portions of the floors are “open”.
“Oh, what do engineers do?” John Niehaus, Associate Director of Facilities said during a tour of Sesquicentennial Hall. “This is what I’m going to be able to do in four or five years!”
The building’s focal point is the Huff Family Innovation Center. The nearly 20,000-square-foot workspace provides opportunities for students and Platteville residents to collaborate on ideas and build prototypes of those ideas.
“Getting to have that hands-on experience and see firsthand, the difference it can make is huge,” Tara Kylie, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Assistant Administrator said as she presented Dean Evetovich with the 2023 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award.
Focus on Energy provided $250,000 in rebates and a Focus on Energy Advisor who is there for every project, helping in the decision-making process.
“When I came on board, I immediately saw that the university embeds energy efficiency into their culture,” Joe Kottwitz, Focus on Energy Advisor said. “Design decisions were made to include high efficiency HVAC equipment, heat recovery units, improved insulation values, and reduced lighting power density. These decisions reduced the energy use intensity of the facility by 30%.”
UW-Platteville also partnered with Alliant Energy and commissioned a 2.4-megawatt solar photovoltaic array expected to offset campus electricity usage by 17%.
“The resources are scarce everywhere,” Kylie said. “To take the time and the resources to do all of that planning and to be planning well into the future, to be as responsible as possible with the energy usage at the university is so great.”
And using a $98,000 Energy Innovation Planning Grant from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s Office of Energy Innovation, the school is developing a long-term energy plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2025.
Additional satellite campuses are based in Baraboo and Richland Center. Energy efficiency and sustainability play a pivotal role in the academic programs on all campuses.
“Partnerships with Focus on Energy and Alliant Energy are invaluable to this university, "Evetovich said. "We are grateful for the support and recognition provided by Focus on Energy, and we look forward to many more great projects for years to come.”