By: Humza Siddique and Mohammad Basit Khan
“Stagnation is not the answer” were the words of Dr. Nauman Zaffar, the head of the LUMS Conservation Committee. According to him, conservation of energy, water and the lush lawns has always been a top priority for LUMS. The Post sat down with Dr. Zaffar on a Saturday morning to discuss past conservation projects and the initiatives for the upcoming decade.
Lighting infrastructure has seen the most development since 2016 with the change from fluorescent tubes to LED lights. The Engineering School has motion sensors installed in most instructor offices, particularly in the Electrical Engineering Department’s wing, to prevent wastage by forgetting to switch off. LUMS has also been able to secure a reliable vendor for the LED lights and the benefit achieved in load reduction is huge. “Imagine this! The room we sit in would consume 800 Watts per hour if it were conventional lighting. That figure is now down to 160 Watts per hour,” said Mr. Farid (Team Lead Electric & HVAC (Engineering Facilities), as he typed on his calculator. Steadily, LUMS has fully replaced conventional lighting in the Library building, most of SSE and a major chunk of the Academic Block floors. After 25,000 light replacements till 2020, the result is an immense 443 kilowatts reduction in load, as quoted by the reports provided by Mr. Farid.
Dr. Zaffar also alluded to potentially greater load reduction for the main supply with developments in the area of renewable power production.
“We currently have 42 kilowatts of solar power capacity installed. You must have seen the solar panels on most roofs across campus.”
LUMS has also successfully negotiated a power-purchase agreement for an additional 320 kilowatts of solar capacity. Through a small tariff paid to the panel company during usage, LUMS will own the solar panels at an insignificant cost within ten years. However, Dr. Zafar foresaw some problems in electricity production via renewables and wanted the community to understand it in detail.
“The issue here is a variable load and avariable source. The moment we have clouds, there will be a severe solar dip.” The plan, as he mentions, is to provide a shaded area in the carpark with solar panels. “Although, the angle of the sun is not ideal in the free-parking area, the shade would be very much welcomed.”
The third major development has been the replacement of forty-five conventional air conditioners in the dorms. This investment has already provided a positive return within eight months, according to Mr. Farid. Dr. Zafar and Mr. Farid hope that the upcoming decade will allow for fifteen to eighteen percent reliance on solar power which comes extremely close to the international standard of twenty percent.
These developments do reflect in the consumption figures. The average monthly figure for electricity consumption on campus has remained around 3 MegaWatts since 2015. Mr. Farid mentioned that peak consumption was 3.6 MegaWatts in August 2019 since hostel residents come back for the Fall semester. However, the figure for monthly consumption still floats about 3 MegaWatts. Mr. Farid talked about how it seemed counter-intuitive considering an increasing influx of students with each new batch. The credit does go to these energy efficient appliances installed across campus.
LUMS also plans to do its part in the current water crisis. Dr. Zafarsuggested a project to revamp pressure motors and pipes for controlled water flow. “The idea is to curtail flow of water so that it is adequate but not comfortable so that students are deterred from wastage. Mind you, conservation is not starvation!” This engineering solution will conserve excess energy involved in pumping water up to the top floors of hostels and academic buildings.
While discussing the energy consumption patterns on campus, Dr. Zafar also explained the minimum luminance level required on campus roads and within facilities.
The Post asked after consistently switched on lighting during the night time in SDSB, to which Mr. Farid responded, “The problem is that security protocol requires alighting level that is sufficient for the monitoring cameras.”
Therefore, such losses were well-reasoned. Another major energy sink, identified by Dr. Zafar, was the loss of air conditioning/heating energy through the glass entrances and corridors of the SDSB and SSE buildings. He urged that these core consumption regions required self-discipline, even if students failed to pay attention to signs on the doors. In this context, Dr. Zafar empowered students to push for smart meter installation. This would grant respective academic departments a high level of granularity in terms of monitoring the consumption patterns. Greater transparency of figures would help improve campus areas lagging behind in conservation.
Another common theme amongstthe discussion with both interviewees was the role of the student body at large. Dr. Zafar elaborated to The Post, a program currently under consideration by the department regarding active conservation measures. It involves implementing a color-coded system across campus, where stickers indicating the colors green, yellow, and red will be placed next to physical electrical switches. Green marks essentials that are meant to be switched on at all times and red would mean switch off whenever you pass by it. Yellow leaves room for devices that become inessential with change in the time of day.
“It’s a very simple, practical idea and potentially a very effective one,” remarked Dr. Zafar. Mr. Farid had a different experience with the students playing their part. “I’ve seen the carelessness in hostels myself in switching off appliances. Although, we were the same at our time. Perhaps it is the age…” However, he did hold expectations from students mindful of contemporary conservation values.
Dr. Zafar hopes to convene a talk on campus conservation initiatives and share the technicalities with the entire student body in hopes to go beyond constructive discussion. “The best thing about such projects is that a couple of passionate students engage in research and get wonderful theses out of it, while we continue to benefit on the conservation front.”