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Moving Catawba College to Climate Neutrality

August 08, 2011

Category: Environmental Science


Hoke HallCatawba College wants to achieve climate neutrality by 2030, according to the plan it submitted as a signatory of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. To get there, the institution will have to change the way it uses energy and reduce the amount of energy it uses.

Carrie Gonnella, an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow, spent ten weeks at Catawba this summer. During that time, she was busy, assessing the college's energy usage and costs, visiting various buildings to gather information, conducting lighting and temperature audits of 20 buildings, making an appliance inventory of selected buildings, and having thoughtful HVAC discussions with two college facilities employees responsible for HVAC. The results of Gonnella's labor are recommendations for eight different campus projects, which if implemented, will move Catawba closer to its goal of climate neutrality.

Gonnella, who is pursuing two master's degrees at Duke University — a Master of Environmental Management and a Master of Business Administration, concluded her work at Catawba's Center for the Environment near the end of July. Before her departure, she presented her findings and her eight project recommendations to members of the college's Climate Commitment Committee. These project recommendations, their costs and projected payback timeframe follow:

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  • Installing 26 VendingMisers and one CoolerMiser on campus drink vending machines would save the college $2,758 a year in energy costs. The project costs would be $3,464, yet would pay for itself in 1.3 years, Gonnella said. In addition to installing the Misers, Catawba can modify vending contracts to require Energy Star vending machines or Energy Star retrofit kits and delamping of both drink and snack vending machines on campus. ;
  • Switching from incandescent to CFL bulbs in three buildings on campus – Hedrick, Barger-Zartman, and Hurley, would save $311 a year in energy costs. The project cost would be $279 and would only take less than a year to pay for itself.Vending ;
  • Lighting retrofits in nine campus building to swap old T12 fluorescent fixtures to T8 fluorescent fixtures would cost $19,305, but the overall project would pay for itself in 2.4 years. These recommended lighting retrofits would also allow Catawba to realize an $8,157 savings annually in energy costs. ;
  • Installing a 15-horsepower Variable Speed Drive on the heating and cooling system fan at the Robertson College-Community Center would cost only $967, thanks to an incentive offered by Duke Energy, but would create a $2,080 a year operating savings for Catawba and pay for itself in six months. ;
  • By being more disciplined in temperature scheduling in 11 buildings on campus, all of which have existing Building Automation Systems (Shuford, Hedrick, Corriher-Linn-Black, Williams, Hayes, Hurley, Goodman East, Goodman West, Purcell, Fuller, and Graham), the college could realize an operational costs savings of $48,435. This would involve setting the temperature to 70 for heating and 76 for cooling in these buildings. Regular temperature "setbacks" in the unused residence halls during the summer months and for eight hours a day in Hedrick and Shuford would also help maximize the savings simply by using the full potential of the Building Automation Systems already in place. ;
  • Installation of new Building Automation System (BAS) in six buildings on campus is one of the more expensive propositions on Gonnella's recommended projects list and one that would take the college 5.7 years to realize a payback. Her recommendation is to install the systems in five residence halls — Hollifield, Barger-Zartman, Salisbury-Rowan, Woodson and Stanback, plus the Cannon Student Center. The overall cost of this project is $212,850 and would generate an annual savings in energy costs of $37,413. To soften the blow of this project costs, Gonnella recommends using the savings realized by utilizing the existing BAS in 11 buildings to help underwrite the costs of installing the BAS in the additional six buildings. ;
  • Appliance consolidation and removal of appliances, such as 20 minifridges, 16 space heaters and one full-size refrigerator from three buildings on campus would save $777 a year and cost only $848, with a 1.1 year payback. This would involve removing minifridges and space heaters from individual offices and replacing the minifridges with a full-size refrigerator. Gonnella cautioned that this project would only work if a comprehensive campus policy is clearly communicated and justified to college employees. ;
  •  Capturing the waste heat generated by the heating and cooling system in Hoke Hall to heat the hot water in used in Stanback Residence Hall was Gonnella's final recommendation and one she credited to Carl Beaver, one of the facilities department employees responsible for HVAC projects at Catawba. The equipment needed to make this good idea a reality would cost $21,999 and would generate a savings of $3,808 annually and a payback in 5.8 years.
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After Gonnella shared her project recommendations, she also explained the barriers that members of the Climate Commitment Committee may confront as they pursue the institutional goal of climate neutrality by 2030. She cited knowledge as one barrier. She explained that knowledge about the status quo – the equipment, the amount of energy used and how buildings are used, could be used to identify areas on campus that could be targeted for improvement. She said creating comprehensive databases of building equipment would be helpful in acquiring knowledge, as would an annual analysis of individual buildings' energy usage intensity (EUI).

GonnellaBehavior of employees and students may also be a barrier to energy efficiency, she said. She suggested creating employee/student incentives (competitions or prizes), advertising efficiency opportunities to them, creating and clearly communicating campus policies that support efficiency, and celebrating progress as a campus community as a few strategies to change behavior that impedes moves toward energy efficiency.

Time is another barrier to energy efficiency, Gonnella explained, because inventories, audits and data analysis take time. Strategies she suggested for overcoming the time constraint included encouraging student honors projects that relate to efficiency and the hiring of a campus sustainability manager.

Finally, Gonnella said that cost is perhaps the greatest barrier to energy efficiency because most projects require a capital expenditure. She noted grant opportunities, creation of a Green Revolving Fund (from energy savings realized on campus), and targeting donors to fund specific projects might alleviate the barrier of cost.

"Catawba is in an excellent position to pursue cost-saving energy efficiency projects. The school has already undergone some great initiatives in the past, such as the efficiency improvements to the gym and water recapture for field irrigation. These actions really demonstrate the campus's commitment to environmental sustainability," Gonnella said. "I am so happy I was able to spend the summer here and help determine some next steps. I hope that in going forward with these projects Catawba is further recognized for its commendable environmental action."

Gonnella, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University.


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