Skidmore honored for campus sustainability innovation

Skidmore sustainability
In the Arts Quad “energy node” (from left): President
Philip A. Glotzbach; Dan Rodecker, director of facilities
services; Riley Neugebauer, sustainability coordinator;
Paul Lundberg,project manager; Michael Hall, director
of financial planning and budgeting; and Michael West,
vice president for finance and administration.

Skidmore wins a national award for geothermal heating and cooling. The college uses an elaborate system of pipes to tap constant temperatures deep in the earth.

Skidmore College has received a 2012 Sustainability Leadership Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for its program to expand the use geothermal heating and cooling in campus buildings.

Skidmore is one of four schools recently presented with an award in the new category of campus sustainability case studies, winning the honor in the grouping of four-year or graduate institutions with 10,000 or fewer full-time students.

“As a growing number of sustainability activities take place on our campuses, we have expanded our awards program to recognize the diverse institutions and the diverse initiatives that advance sustainability,” said Paul Rowland, executive director of AASHE.

To implement geothermal heating and cooling, a form of renewable energy, Skidmore drills down to a depth of 400 to 500 feet, in order to tap the constant temperatures found deep in the earth. A sealed water-filled piping system runs through the holes, where the water picks up heat in the winter and brings it into the building to a heat pump. A heat pump then transfers the heat via a refrigerant into the air or water that is heating the structure.  During warm weather, this process is reversed, with a heat pump taking heat out of the building.

The college began using this system with the opening of its Northwoods Village residential apartments in 2006-07. A geothermal system was then installed for the renovation of Murray-Aikins Dining Hall, followed by the Arthur Zankel Music Center, which opened its doors in 2009-10. The three buildings account for 16 percent of the total square footage of the college’s campus.

Building upon this success, Skidmore is working to add geothermal to its entire Arts Quad, which includes three buildings—Filene Hall, Bernhard Theater, and the Saisselin Art Building—in addition to the already online Zankel Center. Rather than an individual system for each facility, the new approach will use a shared “district” system for greater efficiency. The district system has recently been implemented for Filene and Saisselin, with Bernhard Theater scheduled to come online later as funding becomes available, tentatively scheduled for spring 2014.  

The project to replace Scribner Village with new apartment buildings is currently under way, and the new units will also be entirely geothermally heated and cooled.  In addition, Skidmore aims to implement geothermal systems to heat its Dance Center as part of a renovation project, dependent on funding.

With the completion of these latest projects, approximately 36 percent of the campus building space will be heated and cooled using geothermal energy. With additional projects under discussion, the goal is to reach 50 percent by 2020.

“Our goal is to lessen Skidmore’s climate impact by using a renewable energy source and reducing our greenhouse emissions,” said Riley Neugebauer, Skidmore’s sustainability coordinator.

Added Paul Lundberg, capital projects supervisor in Facilities Services, “We also hope to improve the efficiency of our geothermal technology through new district systems, which are already in use in other parts of the world. We are one of the first in the Northeast to implement a district geothermal system.”

The mission of AASHE is to help higher education lead the sustainability movement. The organization provides resources, professional development, and a network of support to enable colleges and universities to advance sustainability, from governance and operations to education and research.






 

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