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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Energy saving efforts taking hold on campus

Published: November 17, 2006
Section: News

As the environmental and economic costs of energy consumption increase, Brandeis is striving to create a greener campus. The Universitys efforts follow a trend among colleges throughout the nation to reduce their campus negative environmental impact as well as minimize energy-related operating costs.

Brandeis is starting to focus more on saving energy. This may be driven by the cost of energy, which is fine, said Environmental Studies Professor Laura Goldin.

According to Students for Environmental Action (SEA) general coordinator and Energy Savings program intern Emily Silver 08, recent energy efficiency initiatives have already saved the University hundreds of thousands of dollars on electricity alone, in addition to savings from the use of natural gas and oil.

Energy conservation is important on any campus because it makes a huge impact, said Silver. There is so much energy usage on such small square footage.

University leadership has been working with the Brandeis Environmental Sustainability Team (BEST), a campus-wide environmental group made up of Facilities Services, students, faculty and administrators, to develop a plan to reduce energy consumption. The University has committed to a multi-year energy and water conservation program, according to a message from Brandeis Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter French featured on the Energy Saving Program website.

Some of the energy saving initiatives have been hiring Energy Manager Bill Bushey, replacing light bulbs with more efficient florescent lights, installing dimmer switches and motion-sensitive lighting, and tinkering with existing equipment to make it more efficient, such as repairing holes in steam tunnels, said Goldin. These are the low-hanging fruits.

Bigger projects have included designing buildings with more green aspects.

One of the problems at Brandeis is that the buildings and infrastructure are so old, said Goldin. Some students complain that their dorms are so hot while others are freezing. We need to figure out how to get some control so we know how to design things smarter in the future.

Goldin cited the new Heller building as an example of a more environmentally-friendly building.

Because the community at Heller focuses on social policy, they wanted a green building for the public good, she explained. For example, the buildings shape takes advantage of daylight for better natural lighting and features a system that brings storm water from the roof to the ground.

Brandeis is starting to turn towards architects who know and care about energy conservation. They are not just adhering to building codes but also siting buildings to get better natural lighting, said Goldin.
Future projects include installing more energy efficient lighting and occupancy-sensing lighting controls, energy efficient fans and water conserving fixtures as well as improving heating and air conditioning control systems.

Although Brandeis is making great strides in mitigating energy use, Goldin believes there is still a lot more to do. She would like to see the University implement more clean energy options, such as getting a small windmill on campus.

Energy conservation is our greatest weapon against global warming, said Goldin. The first step in getting a hold of it is seeing how we can conserve better and smarter.

Goldin also stressed that energy conservation requires a joint effort between the administration and the student body.

It would be nice to see a culture change in how people use energy, she said. She suggested that students set their computers to sleep mode instead of the default screensaver, turn off lights when they leave the room, do not leave the water running, and even unplug their cell phone chargers when they are not in use. All these drain power collectively, she said.

In order to promote this much-needed culture change, environmental clubs have been trying to raise student awareness of energy conservation. They have been hosting light bulb exchanges, organizing dorm raps, and posting signs near washing machines to encourage cold water washing. Campus Climate Challenge, a branch of SEA committed to clean energy, recently held a screening of An Inconvenient Truth.

At the energy fair planned for November 30 in Shapiro, students in Goldins Greening the Ivory Tower course will showcase their energy saving projects. Alaine Marx 07, a student in the Greening the Ivory Tower course, is heading a benchmarking project at Brandeis, which will use software program and meters in buildings and dorm halls to track where and how much energy is being used.

Both Goldin and Marx emphasized the importance of students taking an active role in energy conservation.

What really drives change is people. When students are conscious about energy conservation and say, We want this and we care about this, they have a lot of power in making it happen, said Goldin. Students must be empowered to change the tide.

Marx added, We need people to want change because it wont get done if students dont advocate it.
Brandeis is making efforts to save energy and money, and there is constant planning to find more ways to achieve that goal.

There are a lot of good people at Brandeis trying to make a difference, said Goldin. Were really moving forward and we need to keep the momentum going.