[MQP] Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá: Climate Action Plan and Water Management Systems

Sponsor: Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá
Student Team: Abigail Ismail
Jason Morgan
Sabrina Napoli
Ana Restrepo
Abstract: The goal of this project was to conduct a baseline study for a climate action plan for the
Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá. The objectives were to develop a baseline sustainability
inventory, propose a climate action plan with mitigation and adaptation strategies, and address
water management needs on campus. A greywater recycling system was designed for the
Engineering building, and recommendations were made regarding how to find and analyze the
data required to design a stormwater management plan for campus.
Links: Final Report

Executive Summary

Climate change is the disruption of global weather patterns, including temperature, precipitation, and the likelihood of extreme events such as hurricanes, landslides, and floods. While Earth’s climate has undergone periods of natural change, recent changes are likely due to human activity, particularly the release of CO2 into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. There is a two-pronged approach to address climate change: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation refers to reducing the release of greenhouse gases to prevent further changes to the climate, while adaptation refers to preparing for the changes to the climate that have already been set in motion. Climate Action Plans (CAPs) are a common framework for this approach. CAPs include a baseline inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and strategies for mitigation and adaptation.

The goal of this Major Qualifying Project (MQP) was to conduct a baseline sustainability inventory and propose a CAP for the Victor Levi Sasso (VLS) campus of the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá (UTP). The CAP proposal identified the most impactful measures to reduce GHG emissions, lower the campus’s vulnerability to risks like floods and tropical storms, and improve sustainability education on campus. The selected measures included the development of a stormwater management design process and a greywater recycling system to reduce water consumption in the Engineering building. Additional recommendations for reducing GHG emissions and resource consumption on campus were developed to be included in a future CAP that includes input from UTP administration.


The goal of this project was to provide UTP with recommendations regarding ways the university can become more sustainable. To accomplish this goal, three objectives were established:

● Develop a baseline sustainability inventory
● Propose a climate action plan
● Address water management needs

Information regarding the university’s current GHG emissions and resource consumption was gathered by reviewing energy, transportation, water consumption, and waste management practices. The GHG emissions information was summarized into a baseline estimate using a threescope framework established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Scope 1 includes direct emissions from sources that the institution owns or controls, such as UTP-owned vehicles. Scope 2 emissions are released indirectly by an institution, such as through purchased electricity. Scope 3 emissions include other indirect emissions from sources that the institution does not own, such as student and faculty vehicles. Water consumption data were determined through published averages and the campus population, since the university pays a flat monthly rate for water, and water consumption is not metered anywhere on campus. The published average used was 42 L/person/day (11 gal/person/day), which is the approximate consumption of a school with a cafeteria and no residents.

Once a clear understanding of sustainability practices on campus was obtained, areas where the university could improve were identified. Actions in each of these areas were compared to each other to determine which initiatives would have the largest impact on reducing GHG emissions and resource consumption. These recommendations were based on the actions of universities similar to UTP in their respective CAPs. While a full CAP involves a more thorough baseline sustainability inventory and involvement from campus administration, this proposed CAP serves as a starting point for future recommendations and sustainability developments on campus. Along with this, a two-part water management design component was developed for UTP to implement.  This design is focused on reducing water consumption through a greywater recycling system and planning for flood risks by developing a stormwater management design process for campus.

The stormwater management design process was developed by consulting hydrology resources, including the New Jersey Stormwater Best Management Practices 2004 Manual and publications from Malaysia’s Department of Irrigation and Drainage. Information collected from UTP faculty and undergraduate theses was also summarized. The stormwater design elements and specifications were derived from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Stormwater Handbook. The design process is intended to assist in the preparation of data by UTP faculty and administration to allow a future team to undergo the design process of a stormwater management plan.

The greywater recycling system was designed to reuse wastewater for building operations like toilet flushing. Appropriate sources of greywater to include were selected based on the desired level of water treatment. Then, the building for the design was selected, and the average daily load and maximum hourly load were estimated through a series of observational studies of bathroom utilization. The physical design of the tank was developed to ensure that the treated greywater would not be sitting for more than 24 hours and maintenance would be minimized. These factors were both considered before adding design components to the storage tank, such as locations of the inflow and outflow. Together, these water management measures will help UTP become a more sustainable university and adapt to the risks presented by climate change.


In 2017, Scope 1 was the source of 25 tonnes (28 tons) of CO2-equivalent, while Scope 2 contributed 1,637 tonnes (1,844 tons) of CO2- equivalent. At 13,633 tonnes (14,995 tons) of CO2-equivalent, Scope 3 was determined to be the highest source of UTP’s GHG emissions, contributing nearly 90% of the total 15,295 tonnes (16,867 tons) of CO2-equivalent released by UTP. Since there are 14,298 students and 139 faculty on the VLS campus, water consumption was estimated to be 606,354 L/day (158,807 gal/day).

Based on the common approaches of other universities, sustainability recommendations were made for UTP in the areas of energy consumption, transportation, water and waste management, and education. These recommendations can be incorporated into a full-fledged CAP in the future, in cooperation with UTP administration. The stormwater design process was developed to assist in the design of a comprehensive stormwater management plan at UTP. It includes information on data collection specific to UTP, using the Rational Method to quantify runoff, and how to design redirected building downspouts, bioretention areas, grass channels, and green roofs. The VLS campus does not have much open space available for use, due to areas with high slopes and conservation restrictions. Accordingly, stormwater management components with high space requirements, such as retention ponds, are not suitable. Additionally, the campus has a lot of impervious surface area, which introduces contaminants into stormwater. Therefore, design elements that provide water quality improvement were preferred. The design components presented are suitable for UTP’s constraints and stormwater management needs. However, they are not a comprehensive list of all potential stormwater management design components. This process should be used in combination with knowledge of any relevant advances in stormwater management practices when selecting design components.

Bathroom sinks and drinking fountains were selected as the only inputs to the greywater recycling system. Cafeteria sink water contains harsh chemicals and a high level of organic material and toilet water contains fecal contamination, requiring a more involved water treatment process. Slow sand filtration was selected as the treatment method due to its advantages in effluent quality, maintenance requirements, and operational costs. It removes turbidity, bacteria, and heavy metals. Slow sand filters have a lifespan of more than ten years and only require simple maintenance of the top sand level. Slow sand filtration can operate without electricity, which decreases cost. The required size of the storage tank was determined to be 6,629 L (1,751 gal) based on the results of the bathroom study. The influent pipe was placed halfway up the depth of the tank to encourage mixing and prevent water from remaining in the tank for more than 24 hours. The effluent pipe was placed at the bottom of the tank to ensure that the treated greywater can be used regardless of the water level in the storage tank. An overflow pipe that drains to the sewer system was placed at the top of the storage tank to discharge excess incoming water. A drainage plug was placed at the bottom of the tank for drainage at certain times, such as over weekends, to prevent water from sitting for more than 24 hours.

Recommendations and conclusions

In general, UTP’s sustainability goals would benefit from increased collaboration amongst groups and departments on campus. While there is an Office of Sustainability, their work is not widely known by students or faculty. This office should publish sustainability initiatives and data on UTP’s website to improve transparency and knowledge sharing. They could collaborate with professors from various disciplines to coordinate the development and implementation of a full CAP in collaboration with UTP administration.

Additionally, there are many ways that UTP can improve the accuracy of the baseline sustainability inventory, particularly in the area of GHG emissions. Ideally, these recommendations will be acted upon as soon as possible in order to develop an accurate baseline against which UTP can measure future sustainability progress. Due to time and data-availability limitations, there were sources that were not included in the GHG emissions estimate. For Scope 1, this includes gasoline or diesel consumption of all UTP-owned vehicles and use of HCFC-22 refrigerant for air conditioning. To improve the Scope 3 estimate, an updated traffic study should be conducted to reflect the growth in student and faculty population since 2014. This study should be conducted on days without special events to provide a more accurate estimate of the number of cars entering campus on an average day.

Prioritizing the work of the Office of Sustainability is vital for UTP to reach their sustainability goals. Publicizing sustainability initiatives will promote campus engagement and can help generate student interest on research opportunities or other ways to make UTP more sustainable. UTP has significant potential to become a sustainability leader, and the best way to achieve this is through internal and external collaboration and engaging students in the process. CAPs help universities, organizations, and cities mitigate their environmental impact. At universities in particular, introducing sustainability concepts to campus exposes students to the importance of minimizing environmental impact. When students carry these lessons on to their future work, sustainability can influence diverse fields. If more universities implement CAPs, the impact on the environment and the influence on the world would be significant.