Students arriving on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus at the start of the fall semester on Aug. 22 will find some obvious visible signs of progress, but there will also be some forward moves that will remain unseen.
What students will see is work begun toward a 40,000-square-foot addition to Boreham Library. Safety fencing was erected in July around the library’s perimeter, with bulldozers at work on the site shortly afterward. Crews have also been hard at work on six parking lots, four of which will be completed before classes begin. Final touches also went to the university’s soccer field, which is set for fall intramural use.
The unseen construction projects include the completion of new roofs, renovation of building interiors, installation of new security cameras and a continuation of energy efficiency efforts, according to Dr. Kyle Parker of Fort Smith, vice chancellor of operations.
“To date, we have been able to see over $1.4 million in annual savings because of energy initiatives undertaken in the last year,” said Parker. “This includes better air conditioning units, LED replacement of standard light bulbs and replacement of computer systems in computer labs.”
Parker said the new computer systems have an 80 percent savings in energy usage, which also saves on air conditioning because they don’t generate the heat that is put out by standard computer processing units.
A total of 375 computers have already been replaced with the new thin client units, which are about a fourth the size of the standard CPUs that the campus offices and labs have been using in the past. Combine that with the increase on system storage capacity campus wide, and technology has had a big boost.
“From a technological standpoint, this is pretty impressive,” said Parker.
The campus will also be building a Central Energy Plant that will serve the library, Fullerton, Gardner, Vines, Ballman-Speer, Holt, Flanders and Breedlove buildings.
“Each building will see a 30 percent energy savings once the CEP is in place for that building,” said Parker.
The initial installation will be for the library, with the rest completed over the summers to allow for least disruption to students.
“We have already laid some of the groundwork for this, however, with the Ballman-Speer renovation,” he said, “and, when putting in parking by Fullerton, we laid the pipes to do Breedlove.”
Additional energy savings will be realized through the irrigation system for grass and trees, where green space will be monitored technologically to determine when areas need watering.
“This is more than a predetermined turn-on of sprinkler systems,” said Parker. “The system is smart enough so that you can use your energy in the most efficient way possible.”
Parker said students and staff may not see what is being done energy-wise, but they will still realize the results.
“They don’t see it, but they will see the benefits while sitting in a computer lab and it’s not as hot as it has been in the past,” he said. “I’m able to keep the students cooler, and it’s costing us less money.”
An area very important to Parker and other administrators at UA Fort Smith -- student safety -- is one of the biggest projects to fall in the unseen category.
UA Fort Smith has already installed four blue-light phones on campus, with four additional ones to be installed. The emergency telephones are on the campus grounds and can be used for immediate help. The phones dial the University Police Department, giving a location.
In addition, more than 50 new cameras have been positioned throughout campus, another effort to provide safety for students.
“Safety is of utmost concern for us,” said Parker. “There are not many places now that we don’t have eyes, where we can watch to make sure our students are kept safe.”
The cameras themselves, Parker said, are efficient and are monitored 24 hours a day.
“As an example, we have cameras at Baldor that can see your face at the bell tower,” he said.
Parker, who came to UA Fort Smith in 2009, said the forward progress on campus is “not due to Kyle Parker.”
“It’s due to the staff we have,” he said, “people we’ve brought on board. When I first came here, I came here to make a difference, but what I’ve found out is that it’s making a difference in me. I’m also getting something out of it. The best time of the year for me is fall. I see all the students showing up and that’s a very exciting time of year. To know you’re part of that -- it’s very fulfilling.”