UAB Sustainability: 16th Street Parking DeckAs a leading academic research institution and health care facility, the largest employer in Alabama, and single-largest contributor to Birmingham’s economy, UAB has more than 120 buildings spread over more than 93 city blocks, comprising much of the southern half of the city center. Effective and sustainable operations are essential to the mission of the UAB enterprise.

Planning, Design, and Construction

While UAB does not participate in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED building rating system, LEED standards are referenced as a guiding principle in major construction projects, both new and renovation. Our goal is to balance environmental responsibility, resource efficiency, occupant comfort and well-being, and community sensitivity. In striving toward this goal, project teams must complete the Sustainable Building project design.

Energy Management

The mission of the UAB Energy Management Department is to ensure the most energy efficient operations of UAB’s facilities. From changing out lightbulbs to nationally-renowned, novel condensate collection systems, Energy Management is reducing the ecological footprint of UAB buildings and saving money. Together with UAB Hospital and the School of Medicine, Energy Management is working on several retro-commissioning projects to improve energy performance of older buildings.

Central Utilities

The central chilled water system includes 3 chilled water plants that operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, delivering chilled water to buildings via a 4.5-mile closed loop distribution system. Chilled water service reliability in our buildings is essential as they include sensitive research areas and acute-care hospital facilities. UAB has implemented a novel strategy (PDF) to recover and utilize condensate water from the fins of air handler coils back in the chilled water loop, reducing the amount of water that must be added to the system.

The central steam system consists of a steam-generation plant completed in February 2013. The distribution network includes a new condensate-return system that reduces energy and domestic water consumption, at a significant cost savings to the university.


Sodexo, UAB’s Dining partner, is committed to a Better Tomorrow through priorities in health, community, and planet.


Recycling reduces trash, reuses materials, and saves money! UAB has regular campus pickup of receptacles for collection of paper/cardboard in offices and common areas, and aluminum cans and #1/#2 plastic bottles in common areas and outdoors. Additionally, at the UAB Recycling Center, you may drop off recyclables from home, including paper, cardboard, aluminum, steel cans, plastic bottles, glass, and cooking oil. For more information, visit the UAB Recycling pages on the UAB Facilities website.

Parking and Transportation

UAB Parking and Transportation offers many programs to reduce vehicle traffic on campus, which improves air quality, encourages more physical activity, and reduces noise pollution on campus. Students and employees can participate in CommuteSmart , and find more information about the new Blazer Express Transit System .


UAB Environmental Management, in collaboration with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, works with sellers of new property acquisitions to address any environmental contamination on the site. Existing buildings are retrofitted to remove hazardous materials like asbestos. In addition, UAB is converting many impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, roadways, and roofs of buildings, into green space with turfgrass, plants, and trees, with some designed specifically for stormwater runoff. Green space in urban areas reduces air temperature and stormwater pollution into the watershed, improves air quality, and increases habitat value, aesthetics, and recreational potential. 

Campus Services and Grounds

Efficient water use in irrigation systems is a top priority. Irrigation standard specifications at UAB call for rain check devices designed to stop irrigation in the event of heavy rains. In addition, many sites, including Baseball, Softball, and West Campus playing fields, have systems equipped with soil moisture sensors that measure soil conditions and utilize irrigation only when a set low-water status is reached. Irrigation systems are designed with plant-specific irrigation zones, so plants that require less water are irrigated at a lower rate than plants that require more water.

In the landscape design process, drought tolerant plant selections are preferred. Mowing blades are sharpened at regular intervals to provide a clean cut of the grass blade, promoting more efficient water use by the plant and thereby requiring less irrigation. Shearing is avoided because it promotes rapid growth and higher water use of the plant. Finally, stormwater runoff from the University Boulevard Office Building parking deck is collected in an underground storage tank for irrigation of adjacent landscapes. This reduces the need for potable water used in irrigation at UAB.


Even though it is a renewable resource, freshwater is becoming a scarce commodity in many parts of the world just like fossil fuels. In our region, Alabama and Florida have been fighting in court for 20 years with Georgia over water each state shares and depends upon from the Chattahoochee, Coosa and Tallapoosa watersheds. So we focus on conservation.