Winter shutdown to help College meet environmental goals

With energy costs still rising amid heightened environmental concerns, the College will once again implement its annual utilities shutdown during winter break. In all-campus e-mail on Oct. 12, President Falk announced his intention to continue and possibly extend the shutdown to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.

The Winter Break shutdown is a significant part of the College’s goal of reducing emissions to 10 percent below its 1990 levels by 2020. This goal was adopted in 2007 after many years of unchecked fuel consumption.

“Between 1991 and 2006 the College’s energy consumption had increased 50 percent,” said Stephanie Boyd, director of the Zilkha Center. “Since that time we have reduced annual energy consumption by 10 percent.”

According to Falk, last year’s shutdown reduced the College’s greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 528 metric tones, or 2.7 percent of annual emissions. According to Boyd, initiatives such as the shutdown have resulted in a 22 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2007.

In the past, the greatest difficulties in shutting down campus electrical and mechanical systems have centered on the Science Center. As Falk pointed out in his e-mail, the Science Center “has a complicated air-handling system and houses ongoing experiments and equipment that are sensitive to temperature.”

According to Tiku Majumder, professor of physics and director of the Science Center, the Center’s involvement in the shutdown is still in the planning stages. Majumder does, however, point out that “the closure of substantial parts of the Science Center complex [in the last two years] resulted in substantial savings of both heat and electricity.”

Majumder also said the science faculty wish to continue to “work with faculty, staff and College officials to make the winter shutdown effective while not endangering sensitive equipment or impacting essential ongoing needs.”

Boyd referenced a variety of implementable sustainable initiatives, including cleaner heating fuels, greener buildings and other conservation measures that would reduce the College’s consumption even while students are on campus and facilities are functioning fully.

Majumder has also expressed interest in making the Science Center more efficient in its day-to-day operation.
Specifically, he said that the science faculty is “discussing the potential substantial energy savings achievable through better control of the many laboratory hoods in use throughout the teaching spaces.” He expects such a change would positively affect energy use and cost.

As per Falk’s e-mail message, a committee will be formed to determine the details of the shutdown. Facilities are scheduled to shut down on Dec. 23 and resume in time to warm student residences for Jan. 1 and work areas for Jan. 3.

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