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Summer 2012

Compact footprint helps resize a campus carbon footprint

A university in northern British Columbia combines the benefits of a skid-steer loader and a pair of utility vehicles to improve operating efficiencies such as snow removal.

Campus facilities supervisor Steve Patton and crew members keep their Bobcat
skid-steer loader, utility vehicles and attachments busy at the university.

Campus facilities supervisor Steve Patton and crew members keep their Bobcat skid-steer loader, utility vehicles and attachments busy at the university.

Perched on a hilltop that offers cascading views of the Prince George valley and the Rocky Mountains beyond sits the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), where one of the newest and smallest universities in Canada is making one of the biggest sustainability statements in North America.

Versatility in woodchips

Opened in 1994, the spectacular tree-lined landscape draws a picturesque backdrop for Canada's most environmentally conscious university. It also provides plentiful green waste from the local forest industry to help heat more than one million square feet of buildings on its 4,000-student campus. Hundreds of truckloads of wood chips are delivered annually to UNBC’s award-winning bioenergy plant for conversion to clean-burning fuel, allowing the school to reduce fossil fuel consumption by approximately 85 percent.

Campus facilities supervisor Steve Patton, along with an eight-person crew, a versatile S175 Bobcat® skid-steer loader, a pair of 2300 utility vehicles (UTVs) and a roster of attachments purchased from Williams Machinery, are enrolled to clear the way — regardless of the season.

One of the S175’s routine assignments is cleaning up the bioenergy chip bay’s overflow, which is performed with ease using these Bobcat attachments: bucket, push broom and angle broom.

“The guys love the angle brooms,” Patton says. “If they had to clean by hand, it could take up to 30 minutes depending on the number of truckloads that day. If it’s colder, more chips come in.”

Productivity in snow

When snow arrives, the angle broom is used to sweep light dustings from miles of uncovered 5-foot-wide sidewalks and numerous smaller parking lots connecting the campus and its two student residences. The Bob-Tach® attachment mounting system allows Patton and his operators to easily switch between attachments to maximize his investments.

For heavier snowfalls, Patton recruits the maneuverability of his Bobcat utility vehicles equipped with the RapidLink™ attachment system and 60-inch blade. “We test drove a few different utility vehicles, but all the guys liked the Bobcat 2300 better because it maneuvered the best and was easy to operate.” Patton says.

The Bobcat equipment has sped up the facilities maintenance process significantly, especially compared to the snow removal tools Patton inherited upon arriving in 2004: shovels and snowblowers. “We had 10inches of snow recently and we had it all cleared in eight hours. In the past, it would’ve taken a couple of days,” Patton said, pointing out that time efficiencies on the grounds allows more time toward general maintenance like changing light bulbs, moving furniture or painting.

Labor savings in sidewalk treatments

Contributing to even greater labor savings, the utility vehicles’ spacious cargo boxes are outfitted with spreaders that haul gravel and ice melt. The hoppers are engineered to spread sand up to 40 feet. “As much as possible, we use the utility vehicles to ease the load on the guys’ backs and shoulders,” Patton remarked, adding that the push broom receives excellent grades in the spring, cleaning off gravel and sand.

Prevention in landscapes

Despite his department’s modest beginnings, Patton quickly realized that the workload would be difficult to perform with a pickup truck.

“A lot of pickup snow blades are 8-feet wide. Even with an angle blade, driving a pickup means damaging the lawn and sprinkler heads,” Patton says, “and we can take some shortcuts through areas where a pickup wouldn’t fit.”