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UTSA Community Cost Containment Suggestions

View the ideas submitted by UTSA staff, faculty and students and responses provided by UTSA administration.

Business Process Improvement

1. Reduce the cleaning frequency of faculty offices during non-peak periods.


This is the first institution that I have worked at where I have had my garbage taken out and my office cleaned every day. I don't want anyone to lose their job, but it seems like it would be more cost effective for faculty offices to only be cleaned once or twice a week, especially in the summer when we aren't here.

Response - Office of Facilities

UTSA has already adopted as its standard for building cleanliness, Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA) level 3 although some buildings may receive more frequent cleaning. In general, we do not believe the campus should fall below that threshold of cleanliness because the quality of our facilities is a recruitment and retention tool and affects learning.

2. Streamline new contracts process for existing vendors and reduce processing time for construction contracts.

Streamline the contract process for vendors that already have a contract in place with the University. Develop a process for processing contracts on construction projects. This process takes entirely too long.

Response - Office of Facilities

Facilities works collaboratively with other support organizations such as Financial Affairs, EHS&RM, Purchasing and Administration to make improvements to the contract approval process in an effort to streamline and reduce the processing time. The latest such effort is education and continuous improvement using lean methods to improve work process efficiency. If there are additional specific recommendations to achieve cost containment, Facilities will be happy to evaluate the details and provide a more specific response.

3. Delegate central mail pickup to work studies vs. administrative staff.


The mail should be delivered to each department (or at least each building) on campus by work study employees, and an "outgoing mailbox" could be placed in each building where mail can be deposited to be taken to the mail room by the same employees. Having administrative staff from every department go to the mailroom every day (and sometimes more than once if something important has to be mailed late in the day) is a huge waste of time and money. The saving would be equal to the salaries of all the paid staff who now go and pick up the mail for the time it takes them every day.

Response - Office of the Associate Vice President - Administration

Centralized mail delivery has been considered in the last several years and has not been adopted due to lack of funding to meet staffing requirements or outsourcing costs for this service. Funding priorities for the institution have been focused in other areas of significantly greater need and departments have not expressed a willingness to support this service with payment of some sort of an assessment. Many departments assign work study students to pick up the mail and currently do not pay anything out of their departmental budgets.
To implement a central mail delivery system would require an assessment of staffing and equipment needs to establish an appropriate budget or completion of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to outsource the service. This activity would be undertaken only if mail delivery rose to the level of an institutional priority, which has not occurred.

4. Reduce software licensing costs by centralizing commerical software procurement.


Too much of the commercial software procurement across campus is done without oversight and without effective centralized management. With proper software asset management (SAM) and license metering (LM), needed applications could be provided to all UTSA users in the most cost effective way. All UTSA systems--research, instructional and administrative should be brought under the same SAM/LM regardless of funding source. With the right tools in place Business units, Colleges, Departments, Centers and individual PIs can reliably obtain the software they need for all aspects of the academic mission without wasting money on excessive software licensing.

Response - Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs

We have this in place today. The Software License Office (SLO) negotiates system and campus licenses, best-price contracts with vendors across campus and system rollouts. The SLO also assists two other types of customers: Students, and Faculty/Staff-for-Home-Use.
The ordering process was automated to free up bandwidth and we’re now expanding the support into other areas.

5. Request that each dept create plan to cut budget by 5% and 10%.


Suggest that an appeal be sent out requesting that every department and sub-department plan to cut the group's particular budget by 5% and another plan to cut 10%. We could begin with the commitment that salaries and scholarships are off the table.

Response - Office of Associate Vice President for Financial Affairs

UTSA’s Strategic Resource Planning Council will review opportunities for reallocating funds during upcoming planning meetings beginning next fiscal year. Such actions may be critical in coming years as we look to strategically realign our existing funding, especially should revenues flatten out. Thanks for your suggestion.

6. Require students request transcripts via ASAP and limit the number of in-person requests that are free of charge.


Students are requesting about 7 - 20 paper transcripts per term. This is too much paper being printed. Students should request transcripts via ASAP only. If they need transcripts that same day and request them in person, then they should be allowed a limited amount. This will save time and help to serve the next student. If students require additional transcripts during the same term, they should pay a fee for the extra copies.

Response - Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs

We have signed a contract with eScrip-Safe for the production of electronic secure PDF official transcripts via their online service. The savings we will achieve by reducing costs for special transcript envelopes, official transcript security paper, postage, and the fact that electronic transcripts by-pass staff handling will more than cover the costs that we will be paying eScrip-Safe for this special service. The benefit for the student is that these electronic transcripts will be sent within minutes of being requested and will get to their destination within seconds. For a more detailed description of this service, please go to the following website: We have been working with OIT on this project and we expect for them to have the necessary interface coding done sometime this fall semester so that we can roll out this new service to our student population. Additionally, the vast majority of our printed transcripts come from students requesting transcripts via ASAP and each year this amount increases as more and more UTSA alumni get used to requesting transcripts in this manner.

Transcripts requested online via ASAP:
Jan 2009: total transcripts = 4,140, ASAP requests = 2,921
Feb 2009: total transcripts = 2,484, ASAP requests = 1,640
Mar 2009: total transcripts = 2,609, ASAP requests = 1,776
Apr 2009: total transcripts = 3,324, ASAP requests = 2,294
May 2009: total transcripts = 4,963, ASAP requests = 3,644
Jun 2009: total transcripts = 4,248, ASAP requests = 3,171

7. Reduce Waste Management pickup schedule.


Waste Management picks up scheduled trash containers every day, whether they are full or empty and UTSA is charged for that "pick-up". EHSRM staff has evaluated this situation and feels that, with management oversight, the number of scheduled Waste Management pick ups could be reduced while still meeting the customer needs for waste removal. The actual cost for Waste Management contract FY 08-09 is $186,243. EHSRM estimates a savings of $57,599 by simply eliminating a number of pick-ups per week.

Response - Office of Facilities

Our current Waste Management service contract will expire at the end of this fiscal year, giving us an opportunity to re-evaluate more cost effective waste management solutions.
Our current waste collection pick up intervals were set based on monitoring the fill rate of trash container units, with a minimum of a once per week collection of each unit to minimize odors, reduce volume of blowing trash and reduce insect infestations. Every unit has its own unique pickup interval and we have changed the frequency of pick up and / or changed to larger or smaller units as necessary to accommodate long range use load trends. Cost adjustments are made to our billing to incorporate those changes. We have reviewed our pick up intervals and have not found any units that are being collected more often than reasonably necessary.

Conservation: Recycling/Reuse/Energy Savings

1. Keep parking lot lights turned off during daylight hours.


I've seen the parking lot lights cycle on in the afternoon, specifically in lot 4. I'm not sure if this is a test cycle, but if this isn't necessary and possibly happening all over campus, resolving it could probably add to significant energy savings.

Response - Office of Facilities   

Parking lot lights are currently programmed with the Energy Management System, which — at the request of Facilities Management — provides the time cycle to turn the lights on and off. Any time lights are turned on during the day, it is considered to be out of cycle, or is a result of maintenance being performed on lights that are not working properly. A monthly report is produced and provides a list all of the lights that are not working properly. The electrical shop completes any needed corrections during the business day by turning the lights on for a few hours until all the corrections have been made. If you continue to notice this at lot 4, please feel free to contact Facilities at 458-6143.

2. Turn desktop computers off.

Turn off your desktop computers. A computer left running all the time uses about 2,628 kilowatts of power, which costs around $262.80 per year in power. By turning off desktop computers every night, users can save over $175 per year.

Response- Office of Facilities

The Office of Facilities met with OIT staff on 12/16/08 to determine an energy conservation strategy that would not compromise computer security. It was concluded that computer CPU’s should remain turned on overnight during the work week in order to push critical security patches without interrupting daytime operations. However, all computer equipment should be turned off over the weekend. We are not certain how well this has been communicated to the campus community. Cost savings as a result of shutting off computer monitors is estimated to total $37,500/yr for all UTSA campuses.

3. Install air dryers in all restrooms.


Putting air dryers in all restrooms instead of paper towels would reduce janitorial needs and reduce supply costs.

Response - Office of Facilities

There are several things that affect implementation of this idea. Air dryers require electricity to run and unfortunately our bathrooms are not equipped with electrical outlets at the point of installation. We estimate the average cost of doing this would be $1000 per bathroom. Additionally, the cost of each air dryer ranges from $260 to over $700 depending on the style. As an alternative, we are containing costs by reducing paper towel waste through installation of units that will only dispense a premeasured length of paper. It is our hope that this will deter users from taking more paper than is necessary.

4. Remove or unscrew light bulbs in soda machines.

I was at a class last week and they described an employee that saved a company money by unscrewing the light bulbs that illuminate the front of a soda machine. The electricity savings were in the thousands. Perhaps we could do the same and unscrew or remove the lighting from vending machines. This could reduce costs and electricity usage, making us both a greener campus and saving the university money.

Response - Business Auxiliary Services

We recognize that de-lamping could result in electrical cost savings for each vending unit. One of the drawbacks to this is that by removing illumination vending sales and commissions might drop, especially in areas where machines are remotely located. We plan to install a VendingMiser® on all of the chip-snack units as soon as we have a contract amendment in place. A VendingMiser is a vending machine power sensor device that provides a quick, inexpensive solution for immediate energy savings and conservation. VendingMisers power down vending machines when the surrounding area is vacant and also automatically repowers the cooling system at one- to three-hour intervals. It is estimated that this implementation can result in a cost savings of up to 46%. Additionally, future proposals will encourage efforts be made to incorporate the use of vending machine power sensors (built-in or add-on devices), refrigerated vending machines that are energy efficient through improvements such as compressors and that existing machines be upgraded.

5. Install measuring devices at all water dispensers; sign up for Wind Power with SA electric company.


When I traveled to Europe every hotel I stayed in had an automatic sensor that would turn your lights off as well as TV and radio when you stepped outside your room. Also, the laboratories have a device that measures how much water is dispensed washing your hands. I know that to get our campus up to par would be costly but with grant funding and budgeting for these upgrades would save us millions in the years to come. We can also look at having UTSA sign up for Wind Power with the San Antonio Electric Company or even create our own "Wind Power Turbines". It would be great to see wind turbines on campus that could also power energy to our future football stadium. We could also recycle our water here to water the landscape and we could place around the campus water barrels or build a cylo to capture rain water.

Response - Office of Facilities

Occupancy Sensors:

The use of motion sensors with automatic shut-offs for lights is an excellent idea for saving energy, and is already being implemented in all new capital construction projects, and each time facility renovations and upgrades are planned for existing facilities. The idea of shutting off plug loads (TV, Radio) via motion sensors has not been previously considered, and Facilities will look into the feasibility of including motion sensor controlled plug loads.

Water Dispenser Measuring Device:
UTSA is currently attempting to fully meter all campus buildings with complete utility metering (heating, cooling, gas, water, electricity) at a significant monetary investment but with the understanding that measurement is key to tracking utility reduction. Installation of water measuring devices at the individual component level would likely not be an economically feasible option at this time.

UTSA has looked into CPS Energy’s Windtricity program. Currently, Windtricity is a program that places a monetary premium on a CPS Energy customer agreeing to an increased electricity rate so as to help fund the program. 100% partnership in Windtricity would increase annual electricity cost by approximately $1,469,500; 10% partnership would increase annual cost by $149,500. We have not ruled out the possibility that UTSA might elect to participate in the CPS Windtricity Program at some point.

Wind Turbines:
With alternative energy generation costs decreasing and conventional power costs sure to increase, wind and alternative energies are becoming an increasingly feasible option. Aesthetics (state/local requirements) will need to be factored along with a study on wind potential for areas of installation. Alternative energy options are reviewed on a reoccurring basis and where feasible, are being implemented.

Water Recycling:
UTSA has looked into the use of recycled water for irrigation. Economic feasibility has yet to prove favorable. We will continue to pursue water recycling alternatives as well as alternative funding sources such as rebates and stimulus funds. One such feasible example is part of our new Engineering Building II (EBII) project, currently under construction. Condensate water will be reclaimed at the EBII project for use as cooling tower makeup. Additionally, rainwater collection has been explored on recent capital projects.

UTSA senior administrative officials will soon be considering a proposal from UTSA’s Sustainability Task Force to establish a more formal Sustainability program at UTSA. Once this program is in place, the potential for implementation of increased energy conservation and sustainability ideas will improve.

6. Install motion sensors for lighting in all buildings.


Install motion sensors on lighting in all buildings. For a relatively small investment — which may also be eligible for federal energy saving program funding — motion sensors could be installed so that if there has been no activity in a room for a given time period, for example, 10 minutes, the lights are turned off. I have been on several other campuses where this has been implemented. This could be used in classrooms, offices, even dormitories.

Response - Office of Facilities

The use of motion sensors with automatic shut-offs for lights is an excellent idea for saving energy, and is already being implemented in all new capital construction projects and each time facility renovations and upgrades are planned for existing facilities.

7. Adjust air conditioning temperatures in classrooms and offices.


My students and I suffer through unnecessarily frigid air-conditioning. I realize that heat endangers equipment in laboratories, but surely temperatures could be allowed to rise by a degree or two in classrooms and offices, thereby reducing energy consumption, saving money, and creating an environment more conducive to learning and research.

Response - Office of Facilities

One of the most difficult things to do in buildings housing several hundred people is to find the right temperature range that will be comfortable for everyone. The Facilities organization takes many calls from occupants regarding their respective area being too cold or being too hot. It is our goal to provide the conditioned air to give our students, faculty and staff the best learning and working environment possible. As a result, our current approach is to try to find a comfortable median temperature range where the majority of the occupants are satisfied with the temperature in their areas. Many factors affect the performance of our building systems and one is the use of the space we are conditioning. Some spaces, such as laboratories have very specific temperature and humidity requirements. We attempt to provide the conditioned air within the temperature parameters provided by research staff. Depending on the zoning of the equipment, this might affect some adjoining areas. As utility costs continue to escalate, it may become necessary for the University to establish a more rigid temperature policy that will establish temperature settings for the entire campus during the different seasons we experience.

8. Double-sided printing for course syllabus. And, turn lights off at South Parking Garage during the day.


Print course syllabus and other printing, double sided instead of just on one side. Every new semester we print a lot of them and use so much paper. If we print double sided we save half as much paper. Also, lights located on the top level of the south parking garage and the other levels are turned on during the day, I don't think the lights need to be on.

Response - Office of Business Auxiliary Services

Thank you for submitting this cost containment suggestion. The lights in the garage are controlled by photo electric cells as well as an electronic timer system. As a result of your suggestion, a problem with these mechanisms has been discovered and my office is working with Facilities Services regarding this matter. Also, printing double-sided course syllabi is an excellent way to save paper. Your idea has been forwarded to Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs for further consideration and review.

9. Stop printing catalogs, turn off lights, reduce usage of decorations, and sell UTSA artwork.


Stop printing catalogs since they are on-line. Have our housekeeping staff/guards/faculty turn off lights in offices, break rooms, and classrooms when not in use. Re-evaluate office hours to see if there is a need for us to be open on Saturdays. For example, is there is a need in August when parents/students are here for move-in but not really the rest of the year? Modify decorations. For example, helium is becoming more expensive due to it not being a renewable resource. We should stop using helium balloon decorations. Sell most of the artwork the University currently owns and instead utilize student/staff/faculty artwork donated by our University community as this has the added benefit of promoting new artists


Re: printed catalogs: We have reduced the number of printed catalogs to its most cost effective level (if we print less, it costs more). A hard copy catalog is often requested by parents who do not have access to the Internet; it is also used as a recruiting tool in many places.
Re: housekeeping staff turning off lights: Facilities housekeeping staff already have a practice in place that when they complete the cleaning of the respective areas such as offices, break rooms, and classrooms they turn off the lights.
Re: turning lights off: We do need to increase campus awareness about utility savings to be generated by turning off lights in rooms not being used. Perhaps the newly formed Sustainability task force can be charged with this campaign. Night shift janitors and police guards who secure facilities at night have been asked to turn off lights in unoccupied spaces.
Re: reducing usage of decorations: Again, this is something we can suggest to the campus community; in many cases, the decorations may be the result of student organizations. It is more difficult to enforce given our mission.
Re: re-evaluating office hours: Other than classes scheduled on the weekend, few if any offices have weekend hours.
Re: selling UTSA artwork: The UTSA art collection was obtained from a set aside of capital construction funds and have served to beautify our campus. The artworks contribute to the aesthetic quality of our buildings and grounds. Also, some of the artwork may have been obtained from donations and selling it would be inconsistent with the donor’s wishes.

10. Drill and install water wells owned by UTSA.


Drill our own water wells and save about $800,000.00. The payback after drilling and installing the infrastructure should be less than five years.

Response - Office of Facilities

UTSA Facilities has begun preliminary study of the feasibility of drilling our own water well, and other associated issues. With the Main Campus being located over the Edwards Aquifer, the lease or purchase of water rights will be a significant cost ($3 million purchase estimate). Additional study will consider all water well costs to include installation, operations and maintenance to then determine economic feasibility. If drilling our own well is found to be economically feasible, a proposal will be forwarded to senior University leadership for consideration.

11. Salvage broken chairs and desks. Use chalk and chalkboards.


There are a number of broken desks and student chair and desk combos that are tossed into the trash. Good parts could be salvaged from several items to repair at least a few chairs/desks instead of adding them to the landfill. The repaired items could go back into service or be sold or given away. Also, all the old chalk boards were removed across campus and replaced with whiteboards and markers. Chalk is inexpensive and chalk boards actually clean up nicer too.

Response - Office of the Associate Vice President for Financial Affairs and the Office of the Associate Vice President – Administration

The UTSA Surplus Property Department is responsible for the disposal of surplus property, which includes desks and chairs. While it is true that some broken desks and chairs are thrown away, it is not a foregone conclusion that all desks and chairs are destined for the trash. The Surplus Department inspects each piece of equipment and attempts to salvage as many items as possible in order for re-issue or sale. Many times, because of the age, value, and/or general condition of the equipment, salvage is not feasible or cost effective. This includes items with broken welds, torn fabric, lack of compatible replacement parts, instances where the amount of time and effort needed to repair outweighs the value of the item, and items that are broken in such a way that the integrity and the safety of the item cannot be guaranteed if repaired. In these instances, the equipment is placed into the trash or, if appropriate, into the metal recycle bins.
Whiteboards and dry erase markers are used commonly in classrooms as a substitute for traditional chalkboards and chalk. The selection of chalk and chalkboards or dry erase markers and whiteboards presents many questions that must be taken into consideration. One must look at the age of the student in the classroom, type of chalk or marker used, cleaning methods, physical limitations of person using the writing implement, and possible health problems of students in the classroom. Once these questions are answered a suitable choice can be made. Since UTSA has both types of boards across campus, purchasing low dust or anti-dust chalk and alcohol based markers is the best solution to reduce any potential affects to the portion of the population who have adverse reactions to chalk dust or Methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK). Another alternative is the use of electronic board devices such as the Smart Board® or Team Board® you see being installed in more and more conference rooms and small classrooms. These devices allow all the traditional advantages of chalk boards or dry erase white boards without the squeaks, dust or smells. They also interface with your computer and the web making them a powerful educational tool. As technology improves and prices for these devices become more affordable, you can expect to see these boards used in more and more classrooms across campus. There is only one manufacturer left on state contract for chalk boards and that is Quartet. The price for a 4 ft. X 8 ft. chalk board is $362, plus installation. The price for a 4 ft. X 8 ft. white board also from Quartet is $193, plus installation. So one could argue that over time, the use of chalk and a chalk board would be more cost effective, but it doesn’t answer the more overriding questions of educational quality and instructor preference. That is the primary reason for removal of chalk boards and replacement with the white boards – the white boards are preferred by the majority of instructors to convey the information being taught and they are being specified by both academic and non-academic departments alike for installation.

12. Recycle leftover food to begin composting.


Use the leftover food items from the dining hall and restaurants on campus to start composting. Coffee grounds, egg shells, fruit and vegetable peels can all be used. This compost could be used by the campus landscaping department to keep the plant life healthy.

Response - Office of Facilities, Business Auxiliary Services and the Department of Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management

Composting food scraps along with other sources of vegetative debris from UTSA food venues and grounds is one that has been explored by both Facilities Grounds and EHSRM staff. However, due to the high initial cost (approximately $169K) to set up a closed containment system required to meet TCEQ and EAA regulations, along with annual costs (approximately $60K) to manage and operate the system, UTSA has not initiated this program. These costs are based on known costs of a UT Arlington – City of Arlington cooperative venture based at the UT Arlington main campus. That operation does not use post meal food scraps, but only scraps generated in the food preparation process or spoiled material.
While all parties agree that composting is a worthwhile venture and good for the environment, there really is no return on investment for UTSA, students, or the taxpayers in the state of Texas for UTSA to have its own operation. Facilities – Grounds estimates spending about $10K per year to purchase compost and sand (80/20 mix) from local sources to use on UTSA grounds, versus a cost of about $38,000 per year to operate a composting operation. Current food scraps are hauled off with the trash to the local landfill where they assist in the decomposition of materials at those sites. UTSA will continue to explore cooperative ventures where the costs could be more equally shared by all members of the San Antonio community.


1. Reassign rarely used UTSA owned vehicles.


Instead of purchasing new vehicles — or restricting a department’s ability to purchase a new vehicle due to budget constraints — a review of existing vehicle usage should be completed. Once completed —via vehicle mileage logs — rarely used vehicles should be reassigned to other departments where needed. Also vehicles can be assigned to a campus instead of a department and be checked out as needed. For example, most of the Downtown campus personnel use private vehicles to travel to the Main campus, but if we had several vehicles that could be checked out for use it would enable carpooling and save funds. ITC currently does this and it works well.

Response - Office of Facilities

Vehicle mileage information is currently monitored on a monthly basis by the university’s (interim) Fleet Manager. We have found that vehicles showing the least use are typically specialty vehicles assigned to Facilities trades for specific uses, such as the water truck, lift truck dump truck, etc. Currently, there are relatively few general purpose vehicles that could be reassigned for use as general motor pool vehicles. However, now that Fleet Management has recently been placed under Facilities, once the program is fully established, there may be opportunities to establish a central motor pool operation in the future, assuming there are cost benefits to do so.

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