UCF Alumni Building A More Sustainable Orlando

Alumni Chris Castro and Brittany Sellers
UCF alumni Chris Castro and Brittany Sellers lead the Green Works initiatives for City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Photo courtesy of City of Orlando

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 19, 2018) — The sounds of construction can be heard on the third floor of Orlando City Hall. The building is being retrofitted with energy efficient technology as part of the City of Orlando’s sustainability initiatives.

It’s one of the many projects currently underway and supervised by sustainability director Chris Castro ’10 and sustainability project manager Brittany Sellers ’13MA ’16PhD. From the moment the UCF alumni step in their offices, they are literally surrounded by the results of their labor of love.

Their daily mission, especially on April 22’s Earth Day, is to transform Orlando into one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country. That’s not exactly easy to do when one of the world’s top tourist destinations is also Forbes’ fourth-fastest growing city in America for 2018.

“When you look at Orlando from a long-term sustainability standpoint, 30-40-50-plus years from now, the amount of energy, the amount of water we’re consuming, the amount of waste that we are generating, is unsustainable,” Castro says. “At a certain point, our economy could become impacted negatively if we don’t start proactively paying attention to that.”

Easy Being Green
Castro and Sellers have been paying attention for quite a while.

Castro, the son of palm tree farmers in Miami, arrived at UCF in 2007 as an undeclared major. In his first year, he enrolled in a class taught by Penelope Canan, a nationally recognized professor for her environmental and sociology research. After taking her environmental sociology course, he knew he wanted to dedicate his life and career to sustainability.

He jumped in immediately by starting IDEAS for UCF, a sustainability-focused student organization. The group welcomes students of all majors and interests, and it focuses on originating solutions to make UCF’s campus more sustainable.

One of its first major achievements was receiving a commitment from President John C. Hitt and UCF to become a carbon neutral campus by 2050. IDEAS worked on programming and policies to help make strides toward that goal.

“I saw UCF as this unbelievable opportunity. For me, it was the best Petri dish that any student could ever imagine,” Castro says. “Everything I was doing through campus, I’ve now tried to expand it and take it to real life and the municipal government.”

One of the group’s programs, the Kill-A-Watt energy conservation competition, challenged students living in dorms to compete against each other in energy consumption reduction.

Sellers heard about the project as a human factors psychology doctoral student and wanted to study the challenge Castro helped implement as part of her dissertation.

She examined the project with a behavioral lens. How were students living in older dorms competing against students in newly constructed dorms? What if students couldn’t easily access sockets to unplug electronics? Did they know what the challenge on campus meant in the bigger picture of impacting climate change globally?

“Information does not equal action. People can know to do the right thing but there are all these other factors, and we need to look at what that means. What are the elements that can make it more possible?” Sellers says. “My transition to the department of sustainability at the city was pretty seamless even though I had come in as a psychology researcher. It might not seem like the most logical jump. But from the interdisciplinary approach I had in my education, it all made sense. A lot of that was fostered at UCF.”

People, Planet and Prosperity
Castro joined City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s sustainability department full time in 2014, and Sellers joined soon after in 2015 before graduating with her doctorate a year later.

The two have brought their expertise to Dyer’s Green Works initiative, which began in 2007. Every day, these Knights and their team – which includes energy project manager Ian LaHiff ’09, sustainability associate Joe England ’09 ’12MA and public outreach coordinator Daniel Friedline ’13 – are shaping the policies and actions that make Orlando and Central Florida a more livable, vibrant and sustainable place to live.

“Sustainability is about changing that mindset to get people looking at people, planet and prosperity. It’s about the triple-bottom line: social, economic and environment,” Castro says. “The fact is, we won’t have an economy if our people are dying and are sick. We won’t have an economy if the natural resources in our environment that we depend on aren’t there. So what cities are positioning to do in our office and our roles is to figure out how we can change our operations internally, and externally, how we can change our culture to embrace the triple-bottom line.”

The first phase of the Green Works program focused internally on city operations. The city knew it needed to buy in to what it was asking of its residents, so it began upgrading municipal building features to minimize energy consumption. It lowered water usage, diverted waste and transitioned its fleet vehicles to alternative fuels.

In 2013, Green Works took what it learned from its internal changes and applied its success outward to the community to foster a culture that embraced sustainability.

To keep from getting overwhelmed, Castro and Sellers focus on making progress in six key areas: energy and green buildings; local food systems; solid waste; livability (planting trees, pedestrian and bicycle trails, expanding parks); transportation; and water. Within each area are policies and actions needed to make their goals happen by 2040.

There are measures like developing plans for solar generation on rooftops in support of Orlando’s 100 percent renewable energy commitment – one of 50 cities in the country to undertake such a monumental task. Or transforming all downtown LYMMO buses into all electric zero-metric buses. Or adding electric motorcycles for the Orlando Police Department. Or addressing food insecurity with farmers markets that accept SNAP benefits. Or fleet farming, exactly like the food being grown in plant beds outside of UCF’s Student Union.

“We could be here all day,” Sellers says as Castro and she list one example after another.

Castro and Sellers estimate their office juggles 40-50 projects simultaneously at any given time, and even though the work is demanding, Sellers says she is excited to be part of the team and takes prides in the work they accomplish every day, especially in the city where her alma mater is located.

While some may say they’re ‘saving the world,’ she prefers to look at it from a slightly different perspective.

“I like when we go out and do good things, you see that light spark in other people. You ignite that desire to do the right thing, the good thing. So I like to frame that as ‘amplifying the good that already exists in the world,’” she says. “Sometimes we’re changing hearts and minds and there’s an evolution, but at the same time, for a lot of people, this already lies within them, and we’re just kind of empowering and enabling that in them.”

Power of One
While they are certainly leading the charge, they want everyone to understand the role each individual can play in helping the city’s progress toward a better future for Orlando.

Castro points to a phone call he received recently from a concerned citizen about an oak tree that was scheduled to be cut down because of development. The individual asked if something could be done to stop trees like the oak from being cut down in the future.

Now, Castro’s team along with the parks and planning teams will collaborate on exploring ways to improve tree ordinances and protect Orlando’s urban forest.

“That all happened because of one individual. That voice goes an extremely long way,” Castro says.

They’ve made it a priority to provide tools and information to the public on their website www.cityoforlando.net/greenworks as well as host community forums to encourage others to use their voices.

Castro and Sellers both agree that the single biggest aspect about sustainability that people do not realize is the effect one individual can have in making a difference.

“Changing out your light bulbs, changing one degree in your home [thermostat], unplugging appliances, changing your diet, carpooling or ride sharing or alternative modes of transit,” Castro says, “little by little, these actions in a collective sense, make a huge global impact.”

UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center LEEDs the Way in Sustainability

LEED Gold Plaque

 

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 16, 2018) – The UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center (FAC) is not only one of the greenest buildings on campus – it was recognized over the weekend as one of the best in the Central Florida region.

The FAC won Most Outstanding Project of the Year (Existing Building) at the U.S. Green Building Council’s fifth annual LEEDership Awards on April 14.

The LEEDership Awards recognizes and honors the outstanding green building projects, forward-thinking businesses, innovative design teams and instrumental region members and volunteers who have displayed green building and sustainable development leadership in the greater Central Florida area.

LEED Project of the Year Award
UCF Advancement assistant directors Rachel Kennedy ’13 (left) and Ann Allen ’03 present the Project of the Year award.

In January 2018, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Operations & Maintenance (LEED) Gold certification, established by the USGBC and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute.

The FAC is one of 21 UCF projects to achieve LEED certification, however, it is the first building on campus to achieve certification under the operations and maintenance rating system. Like many of its peer institutions, UCF mandates LEED certification for all new construction and major renovations.

High performance buildings play an integral part in supporting UCF’s goal to reach climate neutrality by 2050. When complying with the high efficiency standards, UCF LEED buildings are consuming about 30 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than similar non-LEED buildings.

In 2016, the FAC pledged to green its workspace in alignment with the university’s commitment to sustainability.

In two years, the building has accomplished significant energy reductions by using low or no-cost facility improvement measures. It has recommissioned air handler units, improved the solar reflective index of the roof and changed LED lights to a lower color temperature. These energy upgrades show a payback of 6-to-12 months and incur a cost savings of more than two times the initial investment within one year.

Installation of low flush appliances, water conserving aerators and reclaim water irrigation helped in water conservation, reducing indoor water use by 31.1 percent from baseline and outdoor water use by 50.85 percent.

The FAC has served the campus for more than a decade, hosting everything from university functions to televised Senate debates to weddings to corporate meetings, press conferences, graduation regalia distribution and classroom space. To learn more about the FAC or rent the facility, please visit ucfalumni.com/alumnicenter.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – April 16, 2018

Indoor Tailgate Graphic

1. The UCF football team’s annual spring game is upon us! Before heading to Spectrum Stadium at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, stop by the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center for our first ever Spring Game Indoor Tailgate! Doors open at 3 p.m., and just like the regular season tailgates, all UCF alumni (with driver’s license or valid ID) and their guests are welcome to attend this free event. RSVP now

2. Speaking of the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, the FAC was recognized over the weekend as one of the greenest buildings in the Central Florida region. It won Most Outstanding Project of the Year (Existing Building) at the U.S. Green Building Council’s fifth annual LEEDership Awards on April 14.

3. Universal Orlando Resort intends to hire for 3,000 positions to handle the summer season, the company announced last week. The open spots are for part-time and full-time work in several departments including attractions, food services and custodial as well as information technology, finance, marketing or human resources. People who are interested can apply online at http://www.universalorlandojobs.com/.

4. UCF was ranked 25th in the nation for enrollment of freshmen National Merit Scholars in Fall 2017, according to the annual report recently released by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. With 88 National Merit Scholars enrolled, UCF also was ranked the 13th highest public institution in the country. The ranking places UCF above institutions such as UCLA, Penn State and Georgia Tech.

5. All of Knight Nation is Team Hannah after UCF sophomore Hannah Sage advanced to the semifinals in the Jeopardy! College Championship, which airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. Sage, along with 14 competitors from universities across the nation, has the opportunity to win a grand prize of $100,000 and a shot at the next Tournament of Champions game.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 29, 2016

UCFastival

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Dr. Phillips Charities made the largest private gift to UCF Downtown on Tuesday, investing $3 million in the campus project.
  2. UCF Career Services and the UCF Alumni Association hosts a Meet Your Mentor networking event designed to motivate, inspire and empower young women to pursue leadership roles in various industry fields on Tuesday evening.
  3. Thinking about going back to school? Learn more about the UCF Professional MBA program during a special Lunch & Learn series at the UCF Executive Development Center (downtown Orlando) on Thursday from noon to 1 p.m.
  4. The spring football game is scheduled for April 16 at 7 p.m. Campus activities will begin at noon, and will feature tailgating, music and motocross.
  5. The UCF Arboretum is celebrating the completion of a new campus greenhouse that will support its educational and research efforts. The public is invited to a ribbon cutting and open house that will take place from 2-4 p.m. on Friday, March 25.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 1, 2016

baby-race

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Taking any UCF classes this fall? Want some free money? Apply for one of our many alumni scholarships! (Scroll to the bottom of the page for application instructions.)
  2. February is Matching Gift Month, which means your monetary donations may be worth double if your employer participates in the matching gift program. While we hope UCF is tops on your list of giving priorities, we encourage you to give to whichever organizations mean the most to you!
  3. The UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center is taking part in a Green Office Certification pilot program, also known as the “GreenUP UCF” campaign. Over the next year, our staff will be making changes to help our building become a more sustainable part of our beautiful campus.
  4. Looking for something to do this weekend? If you’re in the Titusville area on Saturday, join our Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter as they cheer on Knightro in the Mascot Marathon! Or, if you’re out and about in Orlando on Saturday, support our student-athletes at the UCF Baseball FanFest prior to the Knights’ basketball game against Temple (where you can enter your little one in the Second Annual UCF Baby Race during halftime)!
  5. Join the College of Sciences on Feb. 10, as it hosts its next Distinguished Speaker Series. This month’s topic is “Understanding Violence against Women in Rural Communities,” presented by Walter DeKeseredy, professor of sociology at the University of West Virginia.

Alumni Staff Pledges to GreenUP UCF

staff-GreenUp
The alumni staff took a pledge to GreenUP UCF by helping to make the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center the first
existing building on campus to earn a Green Office Certification by Jan. 31, 2017.

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Over the next year, the UCF Alumni Association staff has pledged to make its workplace, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, a more sustainable building, as part of a Green Office Certification pilot program.

This “GreenUP UCF” campaign, which lasts from Jan. 29, 2016, through Jan. 31, 2017, is part of a partnership between the alumni association, UCF Sustainability Initiatives and UCF Utilities & Energy Services.

Once completed, the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center will be the first existing building on campus to earn the Green Office Certification, and will serve as a model for other buildings to follow in its (no carbon) footsteps.

The effort is part of a commitment President Hitt made nine years ago for UCF to become climate neutral by the year 2050. Since then, existing buildings now use 38 percent less energy, and new construction is designed to the highest standards of efficiency from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

By implementing the Green Office Certification pilot program at the alumni center, we’ll be doing our part to create a more sustainable environment on campus, and in the Central Florida community.

In the coming months, we hope you’ll join us, as we share our progress, along with tips you can incorporate in your home.

Go Knights! Go Green!

More Info

UCF Sustainability Initiatives
UCF Utilities & Energy Services