Green: The Preferred Color Choice at St. Norbert's College
- By Janet Wiens
- October 1st, 2009
Mention the word “green” today and people often think of environmental responsibility. Green is also the color of our nation’s paper money, and the mechanical systems department staff at St. Norbert’s College in De Pere, WI, have found that the two “green” areas work hand-in-hand. The result is a program that continues to improve operations, environmental responsibility, and the bottom line.
Lew Pullen, head of the department, has worked at the private college for 11 years, and has spearheaded numerous projects. “We were challenged, like many facility personnel, to reduce our costs,” he says. “We found that we could save money while taking a more environmental approach to our operations. Each project that we undertake is fiscally and environmentally responsible.”
The staff at St. Norbert’s has completed a number of projects in recent years, and it is somewhat surprising to note that the college does not have a master plan to guide these improvement efforts. (Pullen says that a strategic facility master plan is being discussed at this time.) The work has been guided by the premise that the staff will take full advantage of opportunities as they arise. “Our administration is very supportive and we have buy-in from all areas,” Pullen says. “Our track record has helped to build confidence and enthusiasm for what we are doing.”
Several projects were done prior to 2003, but in that year a cohesive strategy really took off when a major lighting project was started. The effort involved replacing the old high-bay metal halide lights in the sports arena with T-5HO fluorescent lights and replacing 500 existing exit signs throughout the campus with green LED lights. The $160,000 project was funded in part by a grant from Wisconsin Focus on Energy (FOE). Pullen says the arena lighting project saved $1,860 a month in energy costs and that the light levels in the arena were greatly improved. The LED project resulted in an annual net savings of $6,300.
Wisconsin Focus on Energy works with eligible residents, businesses and institutions in the state to install cost-effective energy-efficient and renewable energy projects. Seven primary organizations make up the program, including the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., and the Statewide Energy Efficiency and Renewable Administration. “We have been able to complete projects at a significantly lower cost because of the FOE grants we have received,” says Pullen. “It’s an excellent program that has dramatically impacted the work we are doing.”
Part of the strategy is to complete projects that touch the lives of St. Norbert’s students. Some of these are very visible, while other projects may go unnoticed except by the most astute observers. In either case, Pullen believes that involving students in going green is as important as the support he receives from administrators, faculty, and staff.
When students returned to campus in 2006, the college gave out more than 700 compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs to incoming students in an effort to have them use these in place of existing incandescent light bulbs. Each location where the CFL bulb was installed saved $12.00 annually, and an FOE grant enabled the bulbs to be purchased at a significantly lower cost than normal. “In addition to the bulbs, we gave students information on energy conservation,” says Pullen. “I believe that our students support what we are doing and that they have bought into our efforts.”
New Buildings Go Green
New buildings at St. Norbert’s are designed with environmental responsibility in mind, and the new Miriam B. and James J. Mulva Library is a prime example of this strategy. The largely brick building was designed to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles. Features include light harvesting, skylights, reusable flooring, energy-efficient HVAC, automatic sensors on bathroom fixtures and lights, low-E windows, and electric shades.
Pullen maintains that he and his staff have achieved success in many areas because they have done and continue to do their homework. Their efforts include extensive product research, tapping into the expertise of manufacturers and contractors, and site visits to other colleges and universities to see first-hand what is working for them. Any idea, large and small, that will save money and help the environment — from wind farms on roofs, green roofs, and unplugging drinking fountains — is considered. (Yes, Pullen did unplug the drinking fountains so the water would not be cooled and achieved an estimated annual cost saving of $2,300 per year.)
“Some of our projects may seem small to many, but those savings add up and we use them to help fund other projects to save even more money,” Pullen says. “Every project that we complete makes a difference and helps to meet our financial and environmental goals.”