Our Green Campus: Heating and Cooling our Buildings  | News Center

Imagine trying to create a research report in the middle of a Las Vegas summer with no air conditioning in your building. Keeping campus buildings filtered with cool, clean air in the dead of summer is necessary for the health and vitality of students, staff and faculty.

The university’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) shop ensures that buildings are comfortable while monitoring air quality.

The importance of filters became a top priority for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. On campus, filters from HVAC units have all been replaced by MERV-13 filters with longer life and a larger surface area to trap dirt and harmful particles.

“Our main concern for the environment is to remove chemicals in our systems that can be harmful to the environment,” said Steven Joseph, chief HVAC engineer.

The HVAC team is phasing out R-22 refrigerant in AC units and air handling units. R-22 contains chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that break down the ozone layer that protects the earth from the sun’s rays. The university will replace this with recycled and reclaimed EPA-approved refrigerants. So far, 65% of the units on campus have been replaced by units that use environmentally friendly refrigerants.

The team is working to replace old inefficient units with SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) units rated 13 and above that use less energy.

At the same time, building automation analyzes trends to ensure that our units are not running at full power when there is no one in a building.


The HVAC store works with the building automation team to save energy. Building Automation uses instrumentation, sensors and other automated systems to measure temperature, humidity, air and water flow. Most buildings on campus use systems that adjust the amount of air in a particular room to cool (more air) or heat (less air) the room. Building Automation writes software that controls these systems to manage the algorithms to run our buildings efficiently while reducing our carbon footprint.

Ever wondered what those big towers are in the McDermott Physical Education Complex (MPE) on Harmon? That is UNLV’s Satellite Energy Plant, which distributes chilled water to various buildings on campus. The system has two 150 hp pumps capable of dispensing 3,300 liters per minute. The team uses smart valves and other equipment to prevent over pumping and reduce energy consumption. These remotely controlled valves control when and how the pumps operate.

Such sustainable practices save UNLV’s energy bills and, more importantly, the Earth’s vital resources.

“Our goal is to provide the best possible indoor research and teaching environment while reducing our energy consumption,” said Hugh Orr, building automation supervisor.

Without the work of these technicians, the experiences on campus could indeed be jeopardized. For example, the vivarium in White Hall is used for research into animal and plant life. The Building Automation team ensures that these laboratories are a safe and natural environment for plants and animals.

Do you have an HVAC problem? Contact the facility team.

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