Committee on Sustainability announces project awards

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December 2, 2010

11:46 PM

The Committee on Sustainability at the College of William and Mary has announced its fall 2010 project awards funded by student green fees.

The green fee, which students approved in a 2008 referendum, is a $30 fee per student. Each student’s fee cumulatively gives the COS a budget of over $200,000 per year to fund research and projects to improve environmental sustainability at the College.

Selected by the COS’s Steering Committee, 11 projects were chosen at its November meeting to investigate and improve current environmental practices by the College. The total funding of the projects is $72,437.

“With these projects, we are trying to reduce costs for the College by engaging in more sustainable practices, as well as educate people about the importance of sustainability,” COS co-chair and professor of law Lynda Butler said. “These projects put William and Mary on the map as a campus with innovative environmental practices.”

With these projects, the COS hopes to send a message to the College community that environmental sustainability is an issue that deserves more widespread attention from students, faculty and staff.

“The decisions to fund individual projects are based on three basic criteria: the amount of student involvement, the feasibility of the project and the project’s potential impact,” Butler said.

The projects funded for fall 2010 include replacing 30-year-old lighting in a large lecture hall at the William and Mary Law School with more efficient lighting and motion sensors. Liz Jackson, an associate dean of the law school, received $21,850 in funding to replace the old lighting.

The COS has supported installing lighting with motion sensors in buildings on campus to reduce the amount of energy wasted when lights are left on in empty rooms. This development will also save the College money in utility costs.

“Classrooms are notorious energy hogs because the lights remain lit virtually 24-7 at the Law School,” Jackson said in an e-mail.

Another project, which received $27,000 in funding, involves completing variable frequency drives to the cooling towers by Earl Gregg Swem Library.

Cooling towers are devices that transfer and process waste heat from air conditioning units to the atmosphere. These improved drives vary the speed of the motors used to regulate temperatures inside buildings, and consume much less electricity than the standard drives. The drives use the evaporation of water to remove waste heat and cool the working fluid.

“Those towers are the biggest centralized plant on campus,” Dan Patterson, associate director of utilities in Facilities Management, said. “Those towers serve all of the academic buildings on that part of campus, except for Adair Hall.”

Patterson, who proposed the project, added that it will result in significant savings.

“We can reduce a lot of energy consumption, as well as money from utility and maintenance costs,” he said.

The drives are estimated to be capable of reducing consumption by 450,000 kilowatt-hours per year.

Other projects include harnessing energy sources in the Crim Dell, utilizing solar power on campus, developing a greenhouse gas inventory for the College, and creating compost facilities and methods of storing large quantities of locally grown produce. Six of the eleven projects funded by the COS were spearheaded by students.

“Student work is highly valued, and unlike at many other universities, students play a significant role in improving sustainability here at William and Mary,” Butler said. “Having students work together with faculty and staff is crucial for these projects to work. You can’t make lasting change until everyone is involved.”

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