NAU Wins Award of Merit at Arizona Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards!

At Arizona Forward’s 37th Environmental Excellence Awards NAU presented education awards and received the Award of Merit in the category of Innovation.

President Cheng presenting at the ceremony.
President Cheng presenting the NAU Environmental Education & Communications (Public & Private Sectors) to the Recyclery project at the i.d.e.a. Museum.

NAU sponsored two education/communication awards, one for the public and private sectors and one for educators, students, and nonprofits. President Cheng presented the awards, highlighting the importance of providing recognition for innovative and successful projects in this field.

To compete in the awards, NAU’s Office of Sustainability partnered with a graduate student in the Climate Science and Solutions program and the Green Fund to install an innovative Phase Change Material in the Blome building.

All of these groups are constantly looking for innovative ways to help the university move towards a clean energy future. Multiple classes have assessed the potential for reducing campus emissions and all of their analysis has come to the same conclusion: We have multiple options for cleaning up our electrical load (like solar and wind) but not as many viable options for reducing our natural gas heating demands.

Sitting at 7,000 feet at the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff has a huge heating load! People across the nation are always surprised to hear how cold we get here in Arizona, especially because our desert like environment gets warm during the day and cooler during the night, particularly during one of our 266 days of sunshine. The students poised to themselves a very difficult question: How can we utilize the heat of the day to offset the cold at night or utilize the night’s cold to cool the heat of the day. After extensive research into energy and heat storing technologies, Green NAU was ecstatic to find an innovative technology that economically met this challenge.

Infinite-R is a toxic free, non-flammable, easy to install, and economical, energy storage phase change material (PCM) that has demonstrated¹ dramatic energy savings in buildings (up to 50%). By absorbing excess daytime heat and radiating that energy in the evening, combined with the ability to perform the opposite cycle in warmer climes, peak temperatures can be eliminated and dramatically reduce the load on existing HVAC systems. More specifically, projected results include: 1) Optimize the benefit of solar gain 2) smooth out fluctuations in internal temperatures to increase occupant comfort 3) reduce heating energy by 25% or more 4) reduce energy for cooling by 50%, or even eliminate need for AC 5) delay peak temperatures in offices and classrooms until occupants have left 6) help adapt buildings for climate change.



My office is in one of the oldest buildings on the NAU campus and does not actually have heat. Before the PCM installation, my office was an ice chest and I was dependent on an electric space heater to be able to work.  Following the install, my office is now a consistent 72 degrees, benefiting from sun capture in the morning and steady all day!

Sheila Margaret Anders
Director, Center for International Education
Blome Building, NAU



Those skilled in the metrics of renewable energy payback will understand the attraction to a technology which can be fully installed for less than $0.12 per watt of automatic, zero maintenance energy absorption/radiation with paybacks in the 2-4 year time-frame.

The ease and economics of retrofitting this temperature balancing technology into existing buildings looks to be a game changer for reducing fossil energy use and associated GHG emissions for NAU and all universities across the country.

At last year’s awards, the Green Fund sponsored Solar Hot Air Heaters on the new Engineering Laboratory won the Crescordia award for Innovation.


(1) NREL and US Military studies available upon request