Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sustainability Program to Debut Next Semester

As reported in one of my previous posts, Dominican has a brand new program for sustainability currently in development.

"We're approaching sustainability in an informal, but definitely focused way," said project manager Dawn Morse. "We're going to make it fun, and get people involved."

According to Morse, the project's origins can be traced back to the construction of Parmer Hall in 2007. Parmer's structure follows the LEAD criterion, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEAD is a set of guidelines created by the U.S. Green Building Council that focuses building design on sustainable practices, such as using local materials for construction and using recycled materials in building construction. Parmer Hall has many features which comply with LEAD, including efficient mechanical systems designed to reduce waste, engineered ditches to process storm water without using municipal processing methods, and occupancy sensors designed to turn off lighting, heating and air conditioning when rooms are unoccupied.

With Parmer Hall being Dominican's first official "Green building," it was decided the other buildings on campus could also be more environmentally friendly as well. Older windows in Power and Lewis Halls were replaced recently, to keep more cool and warm air inside the buildings. Campaigns to monitor water use and recycling have also been established. Modifications were also recently made to the heating system in Lewis Hall so that the same aging system could also be converted to support a central air system for the building.

Morse believes reusing existing structures and supplies on campus is key to the program.

"To reuse something is one of the best sustainability things you can do," Morse said of the Lewis heating and air system. "Now we're putting it into a framework of what we can afford and what's important to the world."

Along with construction and recycling initiatives, it was decided that students could also get involved. The program is currently seeking volunteers and an intern willing to lead the program forward.

"We're aiming at younger students, someone who's going to be here a while," said Physical Plant director Dan Bulow. "We want to keep it going."

According to Bulow, the primary goal of the program will be to work with students to develop programs, structures and ideas to make Dominican a more environmentally responsible campus. Students in the program will conduct measurements of energy use on campus, research benchmarks for energy use for schools of Dominican's size, and collaborate with Physical Plant and the university administration on environmentally friendly programs.

According to Morse, students will factor heavily in making new decisions on buildings, and that will start with student involvement in sustainability efforts.

"Getting students involved will be key," said Morse. "With a lot of people doing a little, you can still have a large impact."

The program will see an official launch next semester.

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