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A conversation on district energy between Assistant VP for Facilities Management Chris Kopach and President Robert C. Robbins of the University of Arizona

By District Energy posted 03-08-2019 10:50


President Robert C. Robbins, The University of Arizona Executive Office of the President

Watch the Video 

Near the southern edge of the University of Arizona’s main campus, a few blocks west of Arizona Stadium, is a rather unassuming-looking building. But anyone walking past it will notice the huge industrial installations that seem out of place on a campus otherwise full of red brick architecture. 

Their importance, however, cannot be overstated. And as the unusually wet and cold February this year reminded us, Tucson does have a winter season. Heat is nice to have, as are the cooled buildings during the wonderfully long summer. (I surprise a lot of people when I say I enjoy the heat). 

This climate control, which we all take for granted from time to time, is only possible because of the university’s Central Heating and Refrigeration Plant and two other facilities like it on campus. Beyond creature comforts, power, water, heating and cooling are vital for our research enterprise, enabling carefully controlled settings for learning and laboratory work by our faculty and students to advance knowledge in vital areas of inquiry.

A few months ago, I had the chance to tour the plant with Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management Chris Kopach and several members of his team. While there, I learned about the incredible system they built that uses 800 meters around campus to measure utility and other operations in real time. The monitoring allows FM employees to determine where resources are most needed, to locate areas needing repairs, and to identify other tasks to maintain an efficient, effective and reliable operation

I was so impressed that I asked Chris to return with me, this time with video cameras, to show you more of what makes this such an amazing and essential part of the University of Arizona. You can see our conversation here

The capacity for targeted and efficient operations like this is necessary for an organization as large as ours to meet established goals related to sustainability and cost savings. It also provides our students opportunities to see the principles of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in action and be involved in solving real challenges. 

Though often behind the scenes, the work of more than 600 Facilities Management professionals at Arizona allows us to live our values while always improving our stewardship of state funding and tuition resources.

Robert C. Robbins
The University of Arizona