UT officials discuss University’s water management, energy efficiency during 8th annual Sustainability Symposium

Emma Gueorguieva

Energy consumption in UT buildings could be cut by an estimated 30-50% by 2030, a University official said Friday during an on-campus Sustainability Symposium.

During the 8th annual symposium in the Mulva Auditorium, speakers discussing University research projects addressed water management, air quality testing and energy efficiency. 

“We, in Austin, live in this modern, consumer-oriented experience,” said Lynn Katz, engineering professor and director of the Center for Water and the Environment. “Right now, we use about 40% more resources than we put back, so if we put more back, we would be a lot more sustainable.”

Michelle Addington, dean of the School of Architecture, said buildings could be made more energy efficient if current technology was implemented during their construction.

“It’s clear we know what we need to do,” Addington said. “We just need to make people do it. Rather than focusing on single issues … we want to look at things through different lenses.”


Juan Ontiveros, associate vice president for Utilities, Energy and Facilities Management, said the combination of aging infrastructure, rising rates, water scarcity and environmental pressure will change water management at the University.

“We use a lot of water, 320 million gallons in the plants and 320 million in the buildings and irrigation systems,” Ontiveros said.

The Sustainability Master Plan, which aims to incorporate sustainable practices into University life, was unveiled during the previous symposium in 2016. While speaking at the 2019 symposium, Walker said updates to the plan are expected to provide experiential learning opportunities for students.

“(With the Sustainability Master Plan), we’re not telling anybody what to do,” Walker said. “We’re encouraging them to think about what they’re doing.”

The symposium was hosted by the President’s Sustainability Steering Committee, which was appointed by former University President William Powers to advance sustainability initiatives on campus. 

“The reason why we do things like (the symposium) is to get students, faculty and staff who are doing cool stuff on their corner of campus to meet each other,” said Jim Walker, UT’s director of sustainability.

Kate Bomar, architecture and architectural engineering junior, said she attended the event because she was interested in hearing about Addington’s research.

“(Sustainability) is important because it’s our job to take care of our world, and a lot of people aren’t doing it, so it’s good to talk about it in an academic setting,” Bomar said. “I’m learning a lot. I’m happy to be here.”