The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Memorial Lab, located on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor's North Campus, was completed and dedicated in 1955 as a living memorial to 585 university alumni, students, faculty, and staff who gave their lives in World War II. The facility is devoted to “the peaceful, useful, and beneficial applications and implications of nuclear science and technology for the welfare of the human race.” Following the war, the student legislature and student body convinced the U-M Regents to create a functional memorial to commemorate those lost. The Board of Regents approved the project in a unanimous vote. “We have named the memorial The Phoenix Project because the whole concept is one of giving birth to a new enlightenment, a conversion of ashes into life and beauty,” wrote then Dean of Students, Erich A. Walter. Today the facility is occupied by two groups: Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences, and the Materials Research Institute.
The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project Laboratory saw an overall reduction of 17.96% during the 2021 Michigan Battle of the Buildings competition. There were two projects that primarily led to this energy reduction: a Linear LED Upgrade and Building Recommissioning. The Linear LED Upgrade was completed in April 2022 and cost approximately $64,000 with a $4,000 incentive. The goal of this upgrade was to increase efficiency after the performance of a lighting audit to determine total lamp count and estimate runtimes showed room for improvement. The Linear LED Upgrade improved energy efficiency and lighting quality in the building overall. During the project U-M worked with their in-house Construction Services group, who performed the installation of the LED lamps. They “did a great job communicating throughout the project and bringing the work together in a timely, efficient manner,” said Connor Flynn, Regional Energy Manager at U-M’s Office of Sustainability. The Building Recommissioning was completed in August 2022 and cost $2,500 plus repairs. This project included replacing equipment and improving control sequences. The Building Recommissioning improved energy efficiency, temperature, airflow, and controls. During the Building Recommissioning, U-M worked hand-in-hand with their maintenance and DDC (Direct Digital Controls) teams to make repairs on identified deficiencies and improve control sequences to reduce energy consumption.
“My favorite part of these projects was identifying a chilled water valve that was both partially leaking by and also programmed to open more often than needed,” Flynn stated in our interview. “It's always especially gratifying when everyone gets to share in the victory.” Collaborating between three campus groups- the Office of Campus Sustainability, maintenance, and the DDC shop - to make repairs and adjust the controls, the team was able to make significant improvements. Beyond energy reduction,
these projects will improve lighting quality in the building and ensure all spaces maintain a comfortable temperature and humidity. This allows U-M to ensure a comfortable, attractive building that allows faculty to continue to push the boundaries of energy research.
In 2021 the University committed to Carbon Neutrality by 2040. This included improved financial commitments to energy reduction projects across campus as well as planning for larger-scale projects involving renewables, district energy, and geo-exchange. They plan to continue to put funding towards energy work and energy efficiency to work towards their carbon neutrality pledge and overall campus sustainability.
We were excited to celebrate the University of Michigan Phoenix Memorial Lab’s accomplishments in energy efficiency at our annual Michigan Energy Summit on April 18, 2023 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they were awarded in the University Category!