Going “Green” On Campus

“Going Green” on college campuses has been grabbing headlines for the past few years, and for good reason.  New technologies and products are allowing college administrators and facilities managers to not only to reduce their impact on the environment, but also to realize tremendous cost savings for the institution, the students, and the taxpayers.  Those cost savings come in many forms, most notably in energy savings and reduction of time and labor from maintenance personnel and contractors.

Fiscal Year 2011 saw the completion of two large facilities projects at Ridgewater’s Willmar campus; the implementation of a new central heating plant, and a lighting retrofit covering half of campus.  In and of themselves, the projects don’t sound very exciting, but the impact is impressive.

The new central heating plant replaced 5 outdated, inefficient boilers with new, efficient condensing boilers.  This move resulted in rebates from energy providers in excess of $100,000, in addition to an estimated operational cost savings of over 30%! 

Retrofitting campus light fixtures and switching to more efficient, lower-wattage bulbs is estimated to result in an estimated energy savings of 10-15% of the cost to illuminate the campus.

Impressive, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Take a broader look at how Ridgewater is committed to “going green”:

  • Radiant heat installed in some large shop areas.  This heats the masses inside the classroom (tables, chairs, etc.) instead of just the air, resulting in less heat loss when large overhead doors need to be opened.
  • Green cleaning products.  The cleaning products used on the Hutchinson campus are 80% “green”.  The Willmar campus has achieved a level of 65%.  Facilities managers are continually monitoring for additional ways to use green products in keeping campus clean.
  • Renewable fuel use in college vehicles. Outdoor maintenance equipment runs on bio-diesel during warm weather periods when possible, and all college vehicles are required to refuel with E85 when available.
  • Broad recycling efforts. Yard waste from campus groundskeepers is composted; receptacles for recyclable materials such as plastic, cardboard, paper, and aluminum are conveniently located around campus; carpet and ceiling tiles are recycled during remodeling projects; and rags used in the automotive service technology program are recycled.
  • Lighting improvements. In addition to major lighting retrofitting projects, other lighting improvements are helping to reduce energy consumption.  All exit lighting has moved from incandescent bulbs to LED’s, and newly remodeled or added classrooms and offices are equipped with occupancy sensors to automatically turn lights off when a room is not in use.
  • Energy management.  The Willmar campus participates in “load shed” programs through the local utility company, helping to save thousands of dollars per year in energy usage.  The Hutchinson campus has signed on to a PBEEE Project to monitor energy usage and make recommendations for energy reduction. Large spaces on campus also use CO2 sensors to only allow air handlers to bring in outside air when needed, avoiding unnecessary heating and cooling of outside air.

This is just a brief look at all the ways that Ridgewater is working diligently to be environmentally friendly and reduce energy consumption.  A number of other projects are being considered that will surely have considerable impact for the future.