Cleaning up “Dirty South”

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Photo by Max Catalano

In the heart of Appalachia, Ohio University is constantly seeking new ways to preserve the natural beauty that surrounds the 213-year- old campus. One way the university is working to build a more sustainable future is through the construction of new, environmentally friendly residence halls, particularly on South Green.

The Office of Sustainability recognized that older residence halls on campus lack the necessary means to run on minimal energy. To compensate, Ohio made plans to demolish the O’Blenness, Martzolff and Fenzel residence halls as part of the Ohio University Comprehensive Master Plan. Although the buildings are part of Ohio’s rich history, the new buildings will provide new opportunities for students and will leave a greener pawprint.

The three new residence halls are scheduled to be built between 2019 and 2020. Sam Crowl, the Sustainability Project coordinator for Ohio’s Office of Sustainability, described several features that will be available to future residents such as smart heating and cooling systems. Instead of changing the settings of individual window-units throughout the year to adjust to temperature changes, students will be able to call facilities management and ask them to adjust the vents to a more stable and cozy temperature.

Claire Naisby, Ohio’s building systems integration manager, says residence halls such as Luchs, Sowle, Carr and Tananka previously participated in efforts to conserve energy.

“From September to November we did the Better Buildings Challenge which is an energy saving competition,” Naisby says. “… There was about a 5 to 6 percent reduction over there from student engagement, which is really cool to see.”

All new or renovated campus buildings that cost more than $2 million are required to be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, and the three new residence halls are no exception. Crowl says to follow those standards, the new additions will be more energy-efficient, save 20 percent in water in relation to a building of comparable size and attempt to recycle 80 to 90 percent of the materials on site.

Ohio has already been recognized for its efforts in maintaining a sustainable campus. AEP Ohio, an electric utility and subsidiary of American Electric Power (AEP), acknowledged Ohio last summer for its use of economical and energy efficient equipment, such as pumps and chillers in Ellis Hall. Naisby mentioned that along with other achievements the university has under its belt.

“Still getting some money back in the mail from [the AEP] is why we were recognized,” Naisby says. “I would also note our 50 percent from renewables that were purchased for electricity usage. That’s a big leap in our time frame according to our Sustainability Plan that we weren’t planning on reaching until about 2025. We’re at 50 percent, and it’s 2017.”

The three new additions to South Green will be constructed according to LEED standards. She says the LEED standards, a rating system used to assess the environmental performance of a building, is common among other universities.

“I do support the university doing it and where we are currently because it’s a way we can make sure we’re getting what we want, energy efficiency-wise,” Naisby says.

Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones agrees with Naisby about the university’s efforts to improve campus sustainability.

“I love that our campus and community are committed to sustainability,” Hall-Jones says. “I think it is one of the hallmarks of our community, and we should use it more in the recruitment of students who also want to be part of that mission.”

Although construction on the residence halls has not started yet, students can still do their part to help the environment from their current dorms. Crowl says the most impactful thing students can do to help the planet is very simple: be mindful of their behavior. He says residents can turn the lights off when they leave the room, adjust the temperature in their rooms instead of using fans, open windows when it gets too hot, conserve water in the sinks and showers and recycle as much as possible.

“One cool one I like is instead of having a space heater, if you’re sitting at your desk and you’re cold, get a floor mat and put your feet on top of a heating pad,” Naisby says. “[Or not] drying your clothes versus putting them on a clothes hanger.”

Residence halls are not the only way to make a difference. The Office of Sustainability is always open to students’ feedback on how to make the campus more environmentally friendly. Naisby spends a lot of time speaking with students’ and developing solutions to their requests.

“I think there’s a real art between blending facility sustainability questions with the idea of sustainability,” she says. “I try really hard when students reach out to me to try to educate them because I know when I saw it as a student and what I felt like when I got to the other side. … I do want to help; I really do care about it.”

 

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