Green building practices are important to GMC in existing buildings, in renovations, and in new buildings. Green building initiatives at GMC focus on protecting environmental health for occupants and reducing energy use.
Green Mountain College strives to provide high IAQ (indoor air quality) in all of its campus buildings through everyday practices, regular monitoring, renovation, and construction. The campus-wide GreenClean program run by DTZ uses best practices in custodial services for minimizing toxic air pollutants. When LEED-Gold Sage Hall was constructed, it exemplified the best in low VOC materials. Purchase of new materials for renovation or construction is subject to the sustainable purchasing policy, which outlines standards for paints, adhesives, and other products that may cause IAQ issues. Occupants of any building on campus are encouraged to email the director of sustainability Ryan Ihrke if they have any questions, concerns, or complaints about the indoor air quality in their building.
Green Mountain College has been making major investments in energy efficiency for nearly two decades. In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency named Green Mountain College the country’s first Energy Star Showcase Institution. The recognition was the result of the College’s initiative to replace all residential light fixtures on campus with fixtures meeting the Energy Star standards for efficiency and safety. The College retrofitted or replaced more than 2,900 light fixtures and 1,500 light bulbs in 429,000 square feet of campus facilities, including dormitories, classrooms, offices, administrative areas, and maintenance areas. The project was completed through a performance contract with SIEBE Environmental and saves the College over 260,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually. But, we were not done.
In the summer of 2008, Kenneth Coe, educational technology specialist at Green Mountain College’s Griswold Library, began replacing existing 32 watt fluorescent bulbs in the three-story library building with more energy efficient, longer lasting 28 watt bulbs. By removing a total of 505 older bulbs, the library has cut its electricity use by 34% compared to 2008, a reduction that will save the College an additional 62,216 kilowatt hours a year.
The project stemmed from a 2008 Student Campus Greening Fund proposal developed by student Mara Smith ‘09. Smith focused her attention on the library because the building is open seven days a week throughout the school year and is usually open late at night. As assessment revealed that many lighting fixtures were positioned over the stacks and other areas where direct lighting isn’t necessary. Coe and Elliot Shor ’10 discovered a third of the bulbs in the building could be eliminated while still providing adequate lighting where it is needed most.
Other efforts designed to increase the energy efficiency of buildings include window replacement. Through its own revenue sources and funding from Campus Leading on Energy and Education Grants (CLEAN) grant program sponsored by Vermont U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the College began a $712,000, three-year window replacement program, where 600 windows in student residence halls were replaced with high-efficiency single pane units. Over the 2000s GMC invested an average of $1.2 million per year in infrastructure projects to improve the energy efficiency of our facilities, including window replacements, steam line upgrades, lighting retrofits, and new electrical system.
GMC has been replacing and upgrading steam pipes throughout campus over the last several years, in order to increase the efficiency of the biomass plant and save wood.
In 2013, we earned the Energy Leadership Award from Efficiency Vermont by reducing electricity use by another 7.5% between July, 2011 and June, 2013. Out of the state-wide competition, only 31 of the participants, and just two colleges including GMC, achieved the goal.
The major projects that helped achieve this goal included replacing all 80 outdoor lampposts with LED lights, adjusting air controller settings, and completing a steam pressure reducing valve upgrade to steam pipes in the residence halls. Most recently, in May of 2014 Green Mountain College’s historic Two Editor’s Inn on Main Street in Poultney, VT, was transformed into a model of energy efficiency for older residential buildings in Vermont. Students were intimately involved in every step and will continue to be involved as they test the projected efficiency gains against actual data.
Transformation of Two Editors Inn
To transform the Inn, Weatherization Works installed an 18,000 BTU cold climate heat pump on the first floor to offset oil use for heat and electricity for air conditioning. They also tightened the building through sealing cracks and gaps in the attic, installing an insulated attic hatch, installing vapor barriers to the exposed dirt floor in the basement, adding closed cell spray foam to the top three and a half feet of exposed foundation walls, installing a box sill room and thermal barrier to the basement, venting the bath fans, packing cellulose insulation into the attic flats, and insulating the access panel and knee wall above the kitchen with side wall insulation. The heat pump and air sealing improvements will displace oil usage over 40%.
Additionally, the Inn receives 50% of its electricity from Green Mountain Power’s Cow Power Program. The project began in the fall of 2013 when Cathy Reynolds from Efficiency Vermont brought up the idea of renovating the outlying houses on campus to be more energy efficient, an opportunity that wasn’t explored in the campus-wide energy audit back in 2011. Former director of facilities Glenn LaPlante and director of sustainability Aaron Witham liked the idea.
Witham called Ken Welch from Neighborhood Works and asked him if he would be willing to have his energy efficiency class at GMC do an audit of the Two Editor’s Inn, one of the houses that uses the most oil per square foot. Welch agreed to have his class do the audit in collaboration with Weatherization Works and Bill Morrissey (featured in the picture below). Student Mary Perotti realized the potential in the project early on and wrote a grant proposal to the student campus greening fund (SCGF) to pay for the $100 audit. SCGF, a student-run sustainability fund, agreed to pay for it.
The thermal audit was a major success. The class helped Weatherization Works develop a proposal of $12,662 in retrofits for improving the energy performance of the building. The amount of the proposal fit nicely with the amount of money left in the College’s green revolving loan fund (GRLF), which was $12,451.
“The project was perfect for GRLF funding,” explains Witham. “We wanted something with a payback no more than five or six years, and the projected payback on this project was 5.1 years.”
The remaining projects in the campus-wide thermal audit from 2011 all had paybacks over seven years. Furthermore, Reynolds and Witham thought that the project could serve as a model for retrofitting all of the outlying houses on campus. All they needed was to show success with one house to get the ball rolling for the others.
With strong student support, Witham proposed the project to the campus sustainability council, the on-campus body that approves projects for funding from the GRLF. The project was approved by the campus sustainability council in the spring of 2014 and was later approved by GMC’s cabinet. Students on the campus sustainability council (Kristen Friedel and Connor Magnuson) and the facilitation committee (James VanDeuson) were involved in vetting the project. It was the third project to be approved for funding from the GRLF. Work was completed in May of 2014 by Weatherization Works.
Two students, Katie Getts and Andrew Woodman, accompanied the renovation crew in order to capture high quality media of the project. They took dozens of pictures and filmed a video you can view below. They also teamed up with Katherine Hansberry to produce the interpretative sign that can be found hanging in the living room of the Inn. Hansberry drew the sketch of the Inn that serves as the centerpiece of the sign. The $12,662 project began paying back the loan fund immediately thanks to a $300 rebate from the heat pump manufacturer, Mitsubishi, a $750 rebate from Efficiency Vermont for the heat pump, and another $962 from Efficiency Vermont for projected efficiency gains. The balance will be paid off over time from savings on oil bills.
Facts & Figures
SAGE Hall, which stands for Students for Academic and Green Engagement, received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification, making it the seventh major gold certified building in Vermont and the first in Rutland County. Students moved in for the start of the 2009-10 academic year. Upgrades included:
- Energy star windows
- High efficiency lighting fixtures
- Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products
- Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) flooring and furniture
- Local materials-like the slate flooring in the back sun room-were used whenever possible
While renovations were significant, 95% of existing interior and exterior walls were retained, reducing the environmental impact from new construction.
The building was originally constructed in 1960 and named Bozen Hall after Francis Bozen, former teacher and dean of students at the College. SAGE is now Green Mountain College’s newest residence hall, with space for 26 students who display a passion for learning and academic achievement as well as exemplary service to the campus community. New GMC president Paul Fonteyn identified SAGE one of his chief priorities in a campus community address on October 22, 2008. He noted that renovating an existing building to accommodate the growing student population was a more environmentally sound practice than building a new residence hall. “We took seriously the point of view that a College which takes environmental leadership as a central tenet of its mission should explore other options before engaging in new construction,” said Fonteyn. “In the spirit of regeneration, the College has done an intensive study aimed at converting existing space to accommodate our growing student body.”