Warmer fall weather saves university facilities costs

GVL/Luke Holmes

GVL/Luke Holmes

Meghan McBrady

As snow and frost begin to engulf Grand Valley State University, most students will be spending their time indoors in an attempt to escape the winter chill.

While there are many elements that go into heating the living centers, classrooms and library, facilities services at GVSU is working to maintain and enhance the services provided to support the students, faculty and staff at GVSU.

Terry Pahl, the facilities engineer at the facilities services building on the Allendale Campus, said there are many factors that look at the energy use on campus, particularly the fact that the weather during the fall semester has been warmer than previous years.

“There are many variables to review in looking at our natural gas cost,” Pahl said. “We are definitely warmer than last year, for the time period of Sept. 1 through Nov. 22 this year, there has been 19.8 percent less HDD (heating degree days) than the 30 year normal and 34 percent less HDD than last year.”

While Pahl indicated that university’s facilities services benefits from the warmer fall weather, gas consumption has been running at the same pace through the July 1 through Oct. 31 time frame. It was emphasized that the reason for the similar usage is mainly due to new buildings like the Laker Marketplace and the Kindschi Hall of Science.

“There could be additional reasons of why we are using more natural gas,” Pahl said. “For example, more service hours being provided by some buildings or recently while on the Allendale Campus in the evening, I noticed many housing units windows were left open, with some units had their fans operating and the outside temperature was 45 degrees.”

The good news, Pahl emphasized, is that the natural gas costs are running about 21 percent less for the time period of July 1 through the end of October compared to last year. He indicated that the change is mainly due to contract pricing for natural gas, which is partly due to the weather and also from using more natural gas from the storage facility.

“The short answer is that we benefit from a warmer fall regardless and will continue to do so through the winter,” Pahl said. “The eight to 14 day weather outlook is warmer than normal and the long range forecast through January is also warmer than normal and this reflects the early projections we looked at back in July and who would want to stay in Michigan for a third polar vortex in a row. We also continue to do energy conservation projects — over 300 in the past 15 years. If we compared FY15 to FY01, we dropped 27.5 percent in natural gas consumption on a square foot basis.”

For more information about the facilities services on campus, visit www.gvsu.edu/facilitiesservices