Winner Category 1: WestConn
Turn Off the Lights...Or WCSU’s smart buildings will do it for you
How many times did your mom tell you to shut the door or turn off the lights? In Pinney Hall, the largest residence hall at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, this was a constant issue.
That’s why the school invested $450,000 into making the dorm more efficient. Built in 1999, it was one of the most inefficient buildings on campus. It is full of apartments with five students each (a total of 450 students live there) and every apartment has a patio sliding door, which were always being left open. “It kills me every time I drive by,” says Luigi Marcone, WCSU’s associate vice president for facilities.
So the university developed a program for managing the patio doors, water temperatures, occupancy sensors, and lighting control. After adding smart-building technology, now if an apartment is left unattended, a sensor will adjust after 35 minutes and can control it. If a patio door is open, it doesn’t allow heating or air-conditioning to come on. The changes to Pinney Hall alone have created a 34 percent savings in energy costs for the school.
“Building automation infrastructure is a big thing,” Marcone says. “We were able to look at how a building is working or not working from a portal, and we can change the temperature from it; instead of going around turning off light switches in individual rooms. Whether it’s complacency or immaturity, sometimes people don’t understand the impact. It’s made our lives easier. Instead of a mother hen, we rely on technology to do that.”
Marcone and his team at WCSU also put their green practices to use when developing the six-month-old $97-million Visual and Performing Arts Center. The 130,000-square-foot building, which opened last September, was certified by the U.S. Green Building Council with LEED Silver recognition, signifying the facility is energy efficient and was built in a way that conserves resources. “We were taking steps to make it as efficient as possible,” says Marcone.
Once again, building automation became a key component. The building boasts high ceilings and vaulted areas, heavy lighting, and there is a high amount of exhaust air in some areas, so they used heat and cooling recovery. Builders used high-efficiency equipment and green-building products. These efforts will translate into 20 percent reduction in energy use compared with buildings that are not LEED certified. “I think it’s a tremendous asset to the university. It shows students what technology has to offer in their respective fields. We are trying to teach them what it is that the building does and how it helps them achieve their goals.” He adds: “The design was based on the needs of students and instructors. It was really a collective process.”
Marcone knows sustainability is not always an easy sell. “Being energy efficient is not a sexy thing. You’re investing in things people don’t see, but when you start looking at how much money those investments can save you, then it becomes a little more interesting.”
It’s not all behind the scenes, though. WCSU actively supports Dr. Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots organization, promoting conservation and sustainability by recently planting a permaculture garden on campus.