Colorado College is saving big bucks and eliminating its carbon footprint all in one fell swoop.
Innovative efforts to increase campus sustainability have been successful thus far, college officials say, as energy spending and usage have continued to decline in the last few years.
“There are a lot of ways the campus can improve in terms of sustainability, and our goal is carbon neutrality in 2020,” said Mark Ferguson, CC’s first campus energy manager. “We are planning on converting one of the Synergy houses into a prototype of what other buildings would look like to achieve carbon neutrality. The strategy is to convert the building from natural gas to electric and then install solar panels on the roof.”
So far, the improvements are working.
In the first three months of energy use in the recently renovated Slocum Hall — which is among the first parts of the long-term plan for energy sustainability at the college — there has been an 11 percent decrease in energy use compared to last year.
Although the primary reason for Slocum’s renovation was improvement of residential experience, there were many important elements of the improved building that show promise for sustainability on the CC campus.
“Our main focus in terms of sustainability was improving the envelope of the building, which insulates heat,” said Justin Weis, associate director for residential life. “We also installed low-flow toilets and shower heads and a hydraulic heating system that replaced the old steam system.”
Another primary focus of the renovations was increased privacy in the bathrooms and improvement of shared spaces where students can study and socialize.
The renovation cost around $14 million, but Weis says that the changes are worth the investment for a building that will serve residents well for years in the future.
“We need to use funds to provide buildings that will last in the long-term, and investing in renovations like Slocum’s is very important for the campus in the long-term,” said Weis. “The reactions to the building have also been very positive. Students, alumni, parents, and the board of trustees have all been very impressed.”
Another central element of the construction was student input.
“We sat down with students throughout the process and asked them what they wanted in their living experience, and how we could help achieve that,” Weis said. “We’ll be hosting another meeting in the spring to see how we did.”
Ferguson added that the building also used heat recovery ventilators that capture the heat from the exhaust of the building and recirculate it through the building. Ferguson has gathered statistics about the energy use of buildings on campus since he was hired in 2012.
“It’s pretty remarkable that we have seen an 11 percent decrease in energy use already in the first three months of the Slocum renovations, even though the primary emphasis for Slocum was student comfort, and we added square footage,” said Ferguson.
Slocum isn’t Colorado College’s first sustainability project.
According to Ferguson’s 2013 Colorado College Energy Report, the college has saved a cumulative $2.1 million in avoided utility costs since 2008. In 2013 alone, it is estimated that the college saved $570, 000 as compared to the 2008 base year.
In terms of total energy use, the college use averaged 83.3 thermal units of energy per square foot. The campus covers approximately 95 acres of land and contains 152 buildings.
Although Ferguson was not directly involved with the Slocum project since he was hired after a majority of the plans were made, he has begun to make plans for many other buildings on campus.
There are also a variety of other projects aimed at sustainability in the works for the CC campus. One such project is an in-depth renovation of the Spencer center.
“We’re planning on making the building as energy efficient as possible,” Ferguson said. “When the construction is finished, it will likely be the only building of its kind in the state.”
In addition to these projects, in 2014 the college plans to begin construction of two megawatts of photovoltaic solar power. These solar panels would provide around 35 percent of the college’s energy.
Additional projects can be seen in the Colorado College 2013 Energy Report.