WCC builds its way to a greener campus

 

WCC's BE building interior

 

BY COLIN MACDOUGALL
Contributor

 

When students walk the halls, study for an exam, or quickly print an essay five minutes before class starts, it may not come to mind what goes into making sure a campus operates at full capacity. At Washtenaw Community College, there is a lot going on to keep these buildings maintained and under control, but also green friendly.

In recent years, the WCC board of trustees made a provision that all major campus construction and renovations be LEED certified. Richard Landau, the chairman of the board noted, “All our recent construction projects focus on sustainability and trying to make every building as energy efficient as possible.”

LEED or “Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design” is a globally recognized symbol of excellence in green building, explains Leticia McCadden, the media relations manager of the United States Green Building Council.

“It ensures electricity cost savings, lower carbon emissions and healthier environments for the places… LEED’s global sustainability agenda is designed to achieve high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, acting on the triple bottom line – putting people, planet and profit first,” McCadden said.

About half of WCC’s buildings – including the Occupational Education Building, the Technical and Industrial Building, the Health and Fitness Center, and the first floor of the Student Center – are already LEED certified, according to Bill Ghrist, the energy and systems integration manager. Ghrist described some of the different fixtures that make these buildings greener.

The OE building is LEED certified and has two different types of green roofs: a vegetative roof and a white reflective roof. The white roof reflects the sunlight to help keep building temperatures low in the summer.

“When you have black roof in the summertime, the roof tends to have more absorption of heat and your increasing the need to cool that building,” Ghrist said.

Recently, the SC building’s roof was replaced with a white reflective roof, and the Campus Safety and Security also has a vegetative roof.

“Sometimes called a green roof or living roof, they are becoming very popular because they do two things. They help with the cooling…and it helps to mitigate the stormwater runoff,” Ghrist said of the vegetative roofs.

Ghrist noted that the TI building had gone through a major renovation in the recent past to become more green-friendly. After the renovation, the building now employs such things as waterless urinals, dual-function flush options for toilets which conserve water, and motion detection systems.

The motion detectors track how many people are in a building at a certain time to control the lighting and regulation of HVAC airflow. The detectors also turn off or on if people are in hallways, classrooms or restrooms.

In the BE building, the paper towel rolls were replaced by Dyson Airblade hand dryers. Ghrist had worked on a study in conjunction with a business class to compile statistical data to compare waste consumption of the paper towels vs. the electricity output of the dryers.

“We looked at a year’s worth of consumption of cases of (paper towel).Then we looked at the kilowatt hours of consumption and the initial cost of Dyson dryers… I’m pretty sure it was a slam dunk. There wasn’t any question; we’ve got to do this,” Ghrist says.“Now myself and the building services manager are working together to make a new plan to bring more of these Dyson hand dryers.”

Another energy fixture saving the school money is the lighting. With LED lighting being used in the parking lots, it saves around two-thirds of the overall energy cost. The bulbs last nearly 30,000 hours.

Ghrist has been monitoring WCC’s electricity consumption by building and sometimes by sections of buildings. He compares the consumption in regards to other buildings, but also the consumption throughout the past several years.

“As a campus, little by little we have a very slow decline of electricity consumption in spite of the fact that we’ve been adding more buildings,” Ghrist noted.

Many of these fixtures go unnoticed walking around campus – but with the environmental design in mind, the campus will try to continue doing its part in conserving energy for a greener tomorrow.

 

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