Future of campus sustainability efforts looks bright

by James Huddleston
News Editor

If you walk into Transylvania’s library, you may notice it looks somehow different. While the dense stacks of books, wooden desks and rows of computers remain the same, the lights used to illuminate everything have changed.

As part of an eight-part vision developed by the sustainability office, all interior and some exterior lights across campus are being replaced by more energy-efficient bulbs.

“The goal is to become a carbon-neutral campus,” said Sustainability Coordinator Angela Dossett, “and the new retrofitting (replacing the old lights with the new) is a step towards that goal.”

Discussion for the retrofit began in the spring of 2009 following a preliminary energy audit that revealed inefficiency in many of Transy’s residential and academic buildings.

In 2010, a more extensive audit was conducted that included not only the amount of energy being used and the cost of that energy, but specifically where waste was occurring and ways to reduce it.

“That information gave us a menu of options (for reducing energy waste), many of which we plan to implement,” Dossett said.

One of these energy-saving options was to replace existing fluorescent lighting T12 bulbs with newer, more efficient T8 bulbs.

“T8s burn brighter on less wattage,” said Darrell Banks, director of the physical plant, “and contain less mercury, which makes disposing of them easier.”

Banks noted that while T8 bulbs are marginally more expensive than T12s, they are expected to pay for themselves in energy savings over time.

“Depending on the building — on things such as how often the lights are used and how long they stay on during the day — the lights will pay for themselves in anywhere from 4.2 years, for a building like the library, to 2.6 years, for a building like Clay-Davis,” Banks said.

The library is only the first building among many slated for retrofitting. After the library, installation will begin on the Clay and Davis Residence Halls, then the International House, the Campus Center and others.

For those worried about unexpected visits by maintenance to their rooms to replace the lights, Banks is working with the department of residence life to schedule installation times that are as nonintrusive as possible.

“We only expect to be in each room, at most, 30 minutes,” Banks said.

The installation is being conducted in two phases that coincide with Transy’s budget cycle, and it is expected to take four to five years.

Dossett noted that despite the effort and costs involved, the project is an important move in the right direction for the university.

“This project is important because it emphasizes all three aspects of sustainability — economic, social and environmental — and marks Transy’s commitment to long-term planning,” Dossett said. “We’ve be around since 1780, and if we want to be around for another century or so, we must be willing to embrace change.”

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