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Campus News

Toward energy efficiency

Ricky Ochilo, staff writer

Recently, the Facilities Management and Technical Services (FMTS) Office at Warren Wilson College  has undertaken a project to analyze and study the changing energy costs of both residential houses and campus buildings. John Moon, a visiting professor from Cambian College in Sudberry, Ontario, Canada, is helping FMTS carry out the study. Moon will be working in collaboration with Win Southworth, an Assistant at FMTS.
The program will look at how efficiently water and energy are used and the costs incurred as a result.

“It’s really an efficiency audit program,” Southworth said. Southworth, who lives on campus, mentioned that the older buildings are less energy efficient. He added that the windows are mostly old single paned, crank out or push out, while the houses are minimally insulated and require more energy to heat. Another drawback is the heating coils in the ceilings, which do not effectively heat the homes.

Moon explained that the idea of the study had originally been suggested by Paul Braese, director of FMTS.

However, Southworth feels that there were issues of priority, urgency and availability of funding that had to be addressed before the project could begin. This year, incidentally,  there are more freshmen on campus and, with limited work crews, more work is needed to fulfill the college’s work aspect.

The audit will begin with looking at staff rental homes. Moon emphasized that the houses were smaller and would be easier to analyze. Next they will focus on buildingsike “Devries Gym and the Chapel, which have seen the biggest energy sink,” Moon said.

Both Southworth and Moon expect to pick two residential houses to audit, start renovations, and re-audit the homes during the second semester to predict how cost effective the renovations turn out.

After, similar audits will follow for specific campus buildings. “Ultimately we hope to look at electricity, natural gas and water in terms of usage,” Moon said.

But the focus now is primarily on electricity and water usage. Southworth expressed concern that currently electricity and water are metered as a whole. Also, utilities are bundled together for both couples and single occupants. He added that one person is likely to use less heat and water than a couple, so there are some considerations to be made.

Moon and Southworth hope they will collaborate with the Electrical and Plumbing Crew to implement changes when the time comes. Southworth maintained that data collected from accounting and other work crews by Stan Cross, Director of Education in the Environmental Leadership Center at WWC, will be helpful in determining the energy shifts. In addition, former student Ryan Morra’s data on residential housing will also play a key role in analyzing the energy efficiency or inefficiencies.

Southworth suggested that a possible way to implement the changes would be to have a percentage of monthly rent set aside to renovate staff/volunteer housing. If funding and costs are an issue, then this could serve as a mechanism to compensate for the changes towards efficiency.

“We could begin to install windows and automated thermostats to cut back energy costs,” Southworth said.
As of now the work being conducted by Moon and his crew is a tentative study. Moon expects that in the long run there will be an ongoing crew to study the energy changes on campus housing and buildings.

“We are talking about considerable amounts of dollars and cents,” Moon said.

He emphasized that the “figures are not a vague concept” and would be the basis of implementing necessary changes in terms of energy costs. For example, data collected for the Chapel from Sept. 2004 to July 2008 shows almost a linear progression increase in terms of cost per month and energy in kilowatt hours, with the exception of a few months showing decrease in costs. In Sept. of 2004, the Chapel used 1,441 kilowatt hours and 3,885 kilowatt hours in 2008.

Most of the data collected over a period of four years between the years 2004 and 2008 show that there has been huge increases in energy use and cost between 2007 and 2008.

Another important aspect of the audit is it will allow the college to understand how much money can be saved over a period of time. Southworth believes the study is important for the College. He maintained that energy costs are congruent with the ideas of WWC.  Besides that, the renovations could be encompassed as part of a crew. “We could train crews to change windows and become proficient,” Southworth said. Similarly, being a green college and striving towards sustainability means addressing the issues right here in the College first.

Overall, Moon is impressed with the level of cooperation and understanding at the College and hopes that will serve as a mechanism for improvement.

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