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College campuses becoming ‘green’ models

If the conservation and “green” movement is going to take hold as a routine aspect of American life, it stands to reason that our nation’s universities and college campuses are going to be the breeding ground for such knowledge.

The research and innovation taking place in labs and classrooms at institutions of higher learning is a key – but many universities are also becoming visible examples of what can be done by establishing their own green policies and campus sustainability projects.

This can be seen in obvious ways, whether by the construction of a green roof on a campus building, or the placement of recycled materials to create walkway tiles, or the strategic planting of trees and shrubs for landscaping that reduces water runoff. These types of small projects become visible examples as a classroom “lab” that stress the importance of environmental issues for students.

But a Campus Sustainability Project (CSP) takes everything a step further and is created to develop an online database of environmental management data, policies, and programs for an entire campus. It is a way to conduct research on sustainability in higher education and provide educators and students with resources to help achieve campus sustainability.

One such example is taking place at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where the university has completed many retrofitting projects throughout its buildings. One campus building provides a perfect example, as it was constructed in the late 1960’s as a guesthouse for prestigious visitors. It currently houses campus offices. Building construction techniques from 50 years ago, coupled with a different use from the building’s original intent, ultimately results in a building design that wastes energy. A project to decrease electric costs at this building cut power usage in half.

A major energy consumer in buildings is the heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, which result in older appliances needing to be retrofitted.

Through projects such as these, it has been learned that a key component to cope with inefficient equipment is to incorporate a geothermal heat pump in the building. The heat pump will deliver heated or cooled water year round for a fraction of the actual cost of heating and cooling. Zone dampers can also be implemented in a building to effectively divide it into different climate zones while reducing heating and cooling overlapping.

Lighting of a building can also be assessed, usually revealing that some light fixtures are still incandescent. Those incandescent light bulbs can be replaced with compact fluorescent lamps. This replacement not only is easy and inexpensive, but also pays for itself fairly quickly.

In older buildings on our nation’s campuses, it will also become common to retrofit archaic appliances, improve attic insulation and seal any leaks in ducts.

The end result will be our nation’s campuses being the prime example of conservation, while emphasizing to young minds what “going green” really means.


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