Zilkha Center continues strong support for campus-wide projects

The Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives has been collaborating with students and administrators since it was first started in 2007 to make the College a more sustainable campus. The Zilkha Center has not begun any specific initiatives this semester, but the office is continuing with a number of ongoing projects around campus, according to Amy Johns, interim director of the Zilkha Center.

Some of these current projects are student-sponsored. Zilkha works with individuals and student groups who are interested in sustainability, such as Thursday Night Grassroots (TNG). In the coming months, the Center will carry out Do It in the Dark, a competition to see which dormitories conserves the most energy. The competition will be a collaborative effort between the Center, which will provide funding and technical support, and TNG, which will provide advertising.

Students working for the Zilkha Center are involved in other projects, such as composting in co-op housing, the design of an eco-friendly residence hall and a plan to make the College’s investment more transparent. “We want to [continue] to change the campus culture and make students more aware of the importance of sustainability,” Johns said.

Additionally, the Zilkha Center is involved with the many sustainable building projects around campus. A number of staff from the Zilkha Center attended the Stetson-Sawyer Building Committee meetings. Stetson-Sawyer Library will attempt to achieve LEED Gold Certification – the same certification that Schapiro and Hollander Halls currently hold – which confirms that the library has met high environmental standards.

“It is still uncertain if this certification will happen,” Johns said. “LEED Gold was originally designed for office buildings. However, a library needs specific climate control for some of the collections it will be housing there. When you start talking about climate control, energy costs go way up.”

Another major project is the renovation and relocation of Kellogg House, which is currently on blocks near the Stetson construction site. The Zilkha Center, which is currently located in Harper House, hopes to eventually move to Kellogg House along with the Center for Environmental Studies.

Johns said the Center hopes to complete the Living Building Challenge for the Kellogg House, which is a tougher and more innovative standard than LEED.  “To complete the challenge, the house must be net zero energy, meaning that it has to generate as much energy as it uses in a year, and net water [used must be] zero.” The Center remains unsure if the Living Building Challenge for Kellogg House can be completed due to financial and technical restrictions.

The College also plans to adapt more sustainable light fixtures going forward. Tom Holland, energy conservation project manager, has replaced old lighting with brighter and more energy efficient lighting in both Chandler Gymnasium and the Muir-Samuelson Pool in the past year. During the summer, Holland hopes to replace the lighting in Lansing Chapman Rink and install a reflective roof inside to reduce the energy needed to cool the rink.

The Zilkha Center is also looking into other large-scale renewable energy projects.  “Although we have a few small solar and thermal systems around campus, we really want to see some large-scale projects,” Johns said. “For instance, we have considered using solar thermal energy to heat the pool or harnessing wind power [to power other locations],” she said.

The Zilkha Center also hopes to develop a long-term sustainability plan for the College. The plan will include different initiatives that the Zilkha Center believes will reduce energy costs and benefit the surrounding environment over the next 20 years. The outline for the plan is currently 60 pages long and includes ideas such as eco-friendly housing and ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Johns said that she hopes that the plan will be completed by the end of the fiscal year.

Other tentative long-term projects include window replacement at Mission Park and a building project for Weston Field Athletic Complex.

The College introduced a goal in 2006 to cut emissions by 10 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. Johns said that the College is well on its way to succeeding that goal, but she added that she also hopes the College will take on a bigger challenge.

“The Massachusetts goal is to reduce emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050,” Johns said. “I really hope that the College will consider taking this on as well.”

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