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UCI student housing open house & electric equipment demo

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Grounds maintenance operations across UCI’s vast and beautiful campus is managed independently by each department. This open house was an initiative by Greg Haynes, UCI Housing Administrative Services’ Grounds & Irrigation Supervisor, to showcase the electric equipment his crew is already using, plus a handful of handheld tools from Stihl, Husqvarna, and Oregon provided by CARB (California Air Resources Board) for UCI to demo over the past two weeks.

Greg has taken a leadership role in motivating UCI to transition to low-noise zero-emission electric grounds operations. His goal is to complete the transition for his Housing department and inspire a campus-wide evolution for all other grounds crews.

UCI decision-makers have taken the initiative seriously. The carbon footprint of campus grounds maintenance has been included in the campus-wide 2025 zero-carbon-footprint target. Impressive!

 

ABOVE: UCI HAS Grounds Supervisor Greg Haynes (3rd from R) observes Matt Kennedy (C), Territory Sales Manager for Power Distributors, fit Oregon’s new backpack leaf blower on one of his UCI crew.

ABOVE: CARB Air Resources Engineer Dorothy Fibiger, PhD (L) and Melissa Falkenstien, Director of Capital Projects and Asset Management for UCI Housing, share electric equipment intel and strategy.


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AGZA Electric equipment DEMO for UCI (Feb 2018)

This showcase is actually AGZA’s third opportunity to strategize about UCI’s electric transition with Greg Haynes. Back in February 2018, we met Greg’s crew and introduced the industry-leading commercial-grade Mean Green ZTR riding mower, platform / stand-on mower and wide-area walk-behind mower. AGZA founder Dan Mabe workshopped the features and functionality of the mowers and let the crew take them for a spin. We also presented Greenworks’ 82V Commercial battery backpack blower.

We are very happy to report that UCI purchased a Mean Green Mower — the first and most consequential step in the transition to all-electric operations and the backbone of any large-scale electric groundskeeping operation.

Products DEMO’D

  • Mean Green 60inch CXR-60 with optional S.A.M. solar canopy and Blast front-mount blower

  • Mean Green 52inch Stalker ride-on / platform mower with optional Blast front-mount blower

  • Mean Green 33inch WBX-33HD walk-behind mower

  • Greenworks GB600 600CFM battery backpack blower


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AGZA EDUCATION and ADVOCACY

One of the greatest values AGZA provides to organizations endeavoring to kick gas off their grass is education.

Just about everyone — especially students — already agrees that the pervasive noise of gas leaf blowers is incredibly annoying. And most people intuitively understand that small gas engines are very dirty machines. But beyond those vague stigmas, the heavily polluting gas-powered grounds maintenance industry has managed to escape public outcry over the past half century, or even much scrutiny from the EPA and CARB until quite recently.

The lawn and garden industry empowers the burning of 1.2 billion gallons of gas in super-inefficient engines across the country every year. The hazardous fallout to workers and communities from every single gallon of fossil fuels burned is absolutely staggering. AGZA has meticulously studied and proactively reported on the full matrix of poisons, carcinogens, smog-forming and greenhouse gasses that are the hidden externalities of lawn care.

Below is one of our most popular educational elements, designed to open eyes and inspire change.


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AGZA PROGRAMS

AGZA has invested a groundbreaking decade developing the most comprehensive set of initiatives, information, and experience to advise and advance the nascent battery-electric sustainable grounds maintenance industry:

  • Hands-on equipment testing in the field with full-time commercial crews

  • Careful study of the technical specs and performance of countless gas and electric tools

  • In-depth analysis and reporting on the full spectrum of health and environmental hazards of gas machines

  • Scientifically credible and highly detailed emissions reports for entire gas operations

  • Expert design of zero-emission fleets and battery banks that can replace gas operations

  • Development of AGZA Green Zone® Certification – the industry’s first and most comprehensive metrics and strategy on the financial, health, and environmental benefits of transitioning from gas to electric.

  • Development of AGZA Service Professional Accreditation — the industry’s first and most comprehensive education and training program to empower and optimize crew transition to electric workflow.

Below is an overview of our AGZA Green Zone Certification program.


 

B&M Equipment COmpany

Also at the UCI Open House was Joe Holper, General Manager of B&M Equipment from Anaheim. B&M is one of the largest professional lawn and garden equipment centers in Southern California and have been working with UCI on their electric transition.

Joe set up a live display of a Husqvarna 450X Automower, silently zig-zagging around the parking lot within its retaining perimeter wire. Robotic mowing holds the promise of a true revolution in lawn care, as we reported in our previous posts here , here & here.

Joe also shared a couple of tools from Makita’s 36V line, which are powered by pairs of Makita’s long-proven 18V batteries from their extensive contractor hand tool lineup. It’s a clever strategy that makes low-cost high-quality bare tools readily available to their huge existing 18V customer base.

 

B&M was joined by their partner, Matt Kennedy , the Territory Sales & Service Manager for Power Distributors and the regional rep for Oregon’s cordless tools. Matt brought out Oregon’s newest commercial-scale backpack leaf blower which uses the same modular 120V battery pack from Oregon’s soft-pack backpack system.

This machine is heavy duty and clearly is intended to throw the gauntlet at gas machines. It certainly has the heft of a gas machine, and with that weight cantilevered far off the operators back, it will be critical to get feedback from all-day operators whether this machine causes long-term back strain.

How does it perform? Well, with airflow at 600CFM and 200MPH it hovers around the most powerful available from Stihl, Husqvarna, Greenworks and EG, though it doesn’t raise the bar at all. And with a wide-open runtime somewhere between 15 minutes (according to CARB) and 45 minutes (according to Power Distributors), it’s not obvious this tool offers any significant advantages over their lighter competitors.

Until you hear it — and this is where Oregon’s design sets itself notably apart. This machine is not only quieter than perhaps any other electric blower, it also operates at a much lower tone. Every comment we heard was that this machine doesn’t whine in the same high-pitched way that all the small-format backpack blowers do. We agree.

AGZA hasn’t received all the specs on this tool, or studied the internal workings, but it is easy to see from the large circular tube on the back that the fan blades inside are much larger. We assume the larger fan doesn’t need to spin at such a high RPM to push similar air volume and air speed as the competitors, and therefore generates a quieter and lower tone.

We will watch closely to see if the specs on the noise level are as significant as they sounded, and whether UCI finds that the benefits of that lower noise — especially on a school campus and around student housing — offset the weight, bulk, and relatively short runtimes.


 

closing thought

AGZA is highly optimistic about the deep thought and significant initiative UCI Housing has invested into making their campus grounds maintenance quieter and greener. UCI is a large and beautiful campus with extensive green space, a huge student body, and significant on-campus student and grad housing. We have always promoted the idea that a university setting is the most ideal to take advantage of all the many benefits of quiet, zero-pollution land care.

AGZA looks forward to helping UCI Housing finish their electric changeover and engage the rest of their campus grounds crews in following their impressive lead.

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ABOVE: Having spent a rigorous morning engaged in electric equipment, it was especially ironic for AGZA to depart the campus hearing the grating drone of a two-stroke hedge trimmer right in front of the UCI Health School of Medicine sign. Just another reminder of how far we have to go, and a nudge to do it sooner than later.


 

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