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Winter 2004

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Advocating for green campuses

The wealthiest 26 percent of the world’s people account for 86 percent of consumption and 75 percent of pollution. Only 12 percent of a building’s cost is for construction; 88 percent is for operation and maintenance. If the US population keeps growing at its present rate, the “built environment” will expand by 50 percent in just ten years. Statistics like these fueled a sense of urgency that permeated a daylong conference at Skidmore last fall.

“Recycling is a common focus on many campuses,” says organizer Alfredo DiMauro, Skidmore’s manager of planning and construction, but he wanted broader discussions of sustainable practices. “Energy use, siting of buildings, materials—all play a part in the bigger picture.” So he arranged for a campus link to a national telecast about environmental sustainability and higher education, followed by a live local forum on issues like campus construction and greening the curriculum. Participants included administrators, students, professors, visitors from area colleges, local architects, state agency reps, and city leaders. The day ended with a reception hosted by Skidmore’s environmental studies program, showcasing student research.

From campus woodland preservation to food composting, the conversations never flagged. Perhaps the most common message was that green construction is affordable. Recent examples were cited from several American campuses where grants and funding incentives helped defray the initial cost and where the extra costs were being recouped in utility-bill savings within a few years. At Skidmore, Karl Broekhuizen, vice president for business affairs, pointed to the college’s $1.4 million investment in high-efficiency bulbs for campus light fixtures, which is on track for a four-year payback in electricity savings. But given Skidmore’s tight resources and other priorities, he cautioned, he’d look less favorably on projects with ten- or twenty-year paybacks.

Whatever the project, DiMauro told the crowd: "Think creatively about that piece of the environment you call home." -SR


 


© 2004 Skidmore College