Revisiting Harper College’s Sustainability Efforts

It’s been a few years since I wrote my blog post on Harper College’s sustainability initiative and efforts, so I decided to revisit this issue with the college to discover its progress and if there have been any additional programs added to the initial initiative.

Campus Additions

The campus is in the process of adding sub meters to track energy and water efficiency cost savings. The college has also changed the way it collects data for the carbon commitment progress evaluation. So, at the end of the next academic year, Harper should have more accurate findings to report.

Bringing Sustainability Into the Classroom

The Prairie Observation Deck, which was completed in the fall of 2016, is an outdoor classroom of sorts, where students observe and study the plants, birds, and mammals of natural prairie habitats. According to Amy Bandman, Sustainability Coordinator at Harper College, “The great thing about this new deck is that it is accessible so all students are able to participate, whereas the original deck was only accessible by climbing stairs.”

Harperclassroom

Harper’s Prairie Observation Deck, Photo Courtesy: Amy Bandman

According to Craig Stettner, Professor of Mathematics and Science, ” My primary use for our prairie platform has been as an outdoor lecture location.  When I teach BIO 103 (Man and the Environment), my small-group sections are comprised of 16 students, a perfect size for the platforms.  This fall, I will have nine small-group sections, all of whom will have to mount the platform and listen to my banter three or four times during the semester. There is no substitute for speaking about something while gesturing towards the real thing.”

Karen Lustig, Professor of Mathematics and Science, also comments, ” I also use this platform for my classes in a similar manner as Craig has described .  We often meet there or regroup  before spreading out into the prairie, woods, etc.  We also use it as an observation post when we study and record birds and mammals for one of our labs.  In the past students in wheelchairs or on crutches have had to remain on the sidewalk to observe and record for lab-now they can get they can get the real feel of what a prairie is like!”

Green In and Outside of the Office

The College introduced the ReUsit Room , the College’s first office supply exchange space. According to the College’s 2017 Sustainability Annual Report, “The ReUsit Room allows employees to obtain office supplies without purchasing new items. Employees are also encouraged to donate gently-used office supplies they no longer need. This waste reduction initiative continues to result in decreased material sent to the landfill and reduced spending.

The goals of this program included:

  1. Find a solution to move out office waste
  2. Create an ongoing method of reducing waste and operational costs
  3. Increase campus participation in waste reduction intitatives.
IMG_2143

Harper’s ReUsIt Room, where old supplies get a second life. Photo Courtesy: Amy Bandman

According to Amy Bandman, Sustainability Coordinator at Harper College, “During the 2017/2018 academic year, 2,636 items were reused from the ReUseIt Room, translating into a money savings of over $5,600 and eliminating 1001 pounds of material from entering the landfill. Since its beginning, the ReUseIt room has repurposed a total of 6,941 items, saved over $14,900 in avoided office supply expenses and saved over 2,400 pounds of material from entering the landfill.”

The ReUsitRoom has helped shift the way the campus things about waste. The ReUseIt Room continues to be utilized as a true exchange space; donations are constantly made to the ReUseIt Room and office supply items are frequently taken out and given a second life. This initiative has helped shift the way the campus thinks about waste.  Old office supplies are no longer seen as trash.

The second annual RePlantIt Free-For-All ton June 5, 2018, drew over 80 employees who shared their plant bounty and picked up new plants for their office or garden. This free plant exchange showcased several hundred plants for employees to enjoy including outdoor plants, vegetables and herbs, indoor office plants. A mix of exotic plants was donated by Harper’s Biology Department. One of Harper’s adjunct faculty, Jennifer Richardson, a master gardener, volunteered at the event answering any questions employees had relating to plants or gardening. This sustainability engagement event continues to engage Harper Employees in greening our campus and community

New Compost Bins

The Harper College Facilities Management has partnered with Harper’s Chemistry department to build composting test bins on campus this spring.  The new compost bins are located on the east side of campus, on the site of the former construction parking lot. The bins will be used by students in Harper’s chemistry classes to conduct research on composting.  Students will study the chemical make-up of compost, which materials make optimal compost and will observe how different kinds of materials alter its chemical make-up.  This green campus project is starting in the classroom with small scale organic material collection with anticipated growth in the future.

 

 

 

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Indian Trails’ Sustainability Efforts: Update

 

It’s been a year since Indian Trails Library Public Library District in Wheeling, Ill. (see October 2018 post), began its sustainability and energy efficiency efforts.

“From April 2017 to December 2017, Indian Trails saw a 30 percent decrease in energy costs, even though the building is 30 percent larger — this is significant for us,” explained Communications Manager, Susan Dennison, ” Our solar panels are expected to be installed sometime in May or June.”

The Giving Garden has just been built on the rooftop of the library. This program is run IMG_1348by the library to teach children about planting, tending, and harvesting vegetables. The proceeds of the garden will be donated to a local food pantry. The library received a $2,000.00 from the Rotary Club of Wheeling to help fund this garden. The money will go toward supplies for the new garden and a food composter.

 

 

Chicago’s Malcolm X College Awarded LEED Gold Certification

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on February 18, 2018 that Malcom X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago located on the West Side of the city, was awarded Leadership in Energy and Efficiency in Design (LEED) Gold certification by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Gold certification is the second highest USGBC standard — only platinum certification is higher.

A Chicago Community College press release states,  “Malcolm X College’s LEED Gold certification is yet another example of the city’s commitment to building a 21st century economy and fostering opportunities to make sustainability part of the Chicago experience,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Chicago is a global clean energy leader, and will continue to make strides in establishing new norms by powering our public buildings with clean energy.”

MXC Rendering

Photo Credit Moody Nolan

Malcolm X College achieved LEED Gold certification  through the implementation of practical and strategies and solutions to achieve high performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Some of the aspects of the Malcolm X College & School of Health Sciences which lead to the LEED Gold certification include:

  • The location of the building within a quarter of a mile from public transportation
  • The use of construction materials made from recycled materials
  • The installation of green roofs
  • The implementation of a rainwater harvesting system used for irrigation
  • The use of control systems that regulate the use of artificial light

“The college’s design serves to compliment the high quality programs Malcolm X College offers to students seeking healthcare careers and planning to transfer to four-year colleges,” said Chancellor Juan Salgado.

According to President David Sanders, “Making sure the campus was sustainable and energy efficient were top priorities in [the] construction of the college. [T]his rating reflects that commitment.”

The minority-owned architectural firm Moody Nolan designed the college. According to Moody Nolan Partner Renauld Mitchell, “City Colleges’ aspiration to develop a healthy, sustainable academic environment was clear to us from the start, and we’re thrilled to see them get acknowledged and proud to share in this accomplishment. Their ethos fully aligned with our firm’s ongoing commitment to socially/environmentally-conscious design.”

“The work of innovative building projects like Malcolm X College is a driving force in transforming the way buildings are built, design and operated,” said USGBC President & CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. “Buildings that achieve LEED certification are lowering carbon emissions, creating a healthier environment and reducing operating costs while prioritizing sustainable practices, and the number of green buildings is increasing, which improves the quality of life for generations to come.”

A 2017 National Green Building Adoption Index published by CBRE Group Inc. and Maastricht University,  notated that Chicago is the national leader in energy efficient office buildings. In 2017 Chicago increased its percentage of green office space square footage by 6.5 percent, raising the amount of LEED or Energy Star certified city office buildings to 66 percent. More than 115 municipally-owned facilities have been acquired by the City of Chicago and the Public Building Commission and its sister agencies making Chicago the leader of LEED-cerfified municipal buildings in the country. The City met Mayor Emanuel’s 2011 goal of doubling number of LEED certified municipal buildings in 2014.

Malcolm X College is home to City Colleges of Chicago’s School of Nursing and offers programs in phlebotomy, dental hygiene, medical assisting, radiography, personal fitness training, mortuary science and many other disciplines, including general education courses. Malcom X College serves as the City Colleges’ center or excellence for health sciences.

On average, Malcolm X College health science students pass their licensure exam at a rate of 90% and advance their careers at leading healthcare organizations in Chicago.

According to the USGBC, LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.

 

 

Lighting the Way to Greener Libraries

Indian Trails Public Library District, located in Wheeling, Ill., reopened its doors on April 10, 2017 after renovating the building and rebuilding in the space — making the way for a more contemporary, bright, open, and energy-efficient space for all uses and ages.

Racetrack Lighting YS

Photo Courtesy McShane Fleming Studios

Patrons now conduct research amid low wattage LED lighting, which is easier on their eyes and does not cast a shadow. The children’s department is the home to the longest LED racetrack lighting in North America. At 815 feet, this racetrack lighting adds a fun, lively and seamless feel to the department and the rest of the library. The space also has a skylight, which offers patrons natural light, especially during the long winter season. And, visitors can also snuggle up with a captivating book next to the gas fireplace.

 

But, the most relevant upgrade of the new building is the conversion of the pricey electric heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to a more cost-efficient and cleaner system which features geothermal wells and natural gas boilers. The library currently houses 28 geothermal wells. Since the library reopened in April, it is still too early to report any energy savings since switching from electric to geothermal energy, although early indicators suggest significant cost savings on energy bills.

In September 2017, Indian Trails added green roofs to the west and south sides of the library on the second floor. The plant material is composed of sedum, which is a perennial plant that is native to the area and requires little or no maintenance. In the springtime the plant blooms star-shaped purple flowers.

In June 2017 the library learned that it had become the recipient of a $100,000 grant from EBSCO Information Services, a library resource provider for academic, public library, and government, and school customers. This grant is for the installation of a solar array at the library. The other $100,000.00 grant recipient was the Athens-Clarke County Library located in Athens, Ga.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant and be given the opportunity to further enhance our new building, stated Brian Shepard, the library executive director. “Through our expanded STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics] programming and makerspace initiatives, we hope to educate and inspire residents to explore the lasting benefits that sustainability practices contribute to an informed community.”

Since its doors reopened in April 2017, the response to the new facility has been overwhelmingly positive. In August, the library hosted the solar house exhibit from  the Illinois Solar Energy Association. When the solar panels are installed next year, the library will include programs for all ages about how  families can reduce their carbon footprint, and the benefits of solar energy.

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community Part 2 — Harper College

So, next in my series about sustainability and Chicago area community colleges is Harper College. Located in Palatine, Harper College holds a special place in my heart and mind because Harperthis was the community college I attended after high school and before I transferred to Northeastern Illinois University. The College has grown and changed — I had difficulty finding where I was supposed to meet someone – didn’t even recognize the campus! But, that’s a good thing! And, I was also very happy to learn about the green efforts the College is making toward sustainability.
In order to move forward with its sustainability efforts, Amy Bandman was hired as Harper’s first Sustainability Coordinator, who has stated that “…the biggest sustainability challenge is community engagement – those at the school have to take ownership of being green and healthy, but it’s hard because Harper is a commuter school.”

Moving Forward

Even though community engagement may be a struggle, there have been many sustainability victories at Harper — the most significant being the drop from 2.18 million gallons of water usage to 1.85 million gallons between May 2014 and May 2014 – that’s a difference of .33 million gallons in one year.

“In just one year we [Harper College] have reduced paper towel consumption by four and a half tons just by switching to hand dryers — this has saved the college over $12,000,” explained Bandman

The College has also made progress achieving the goals set in its 2013 Climate Action Plan. In its January 15, 2015 American College & University President’s Commitment, Bandman reported that “Harper College has achieved its first target set forth in phase one of the climate action plan, achieving 5% reduction in energy use of purchased utilities compared to the base year of 2010 and 15% offset of carbon emissions from purchased utilities via renewable energy certificates.

Also, per the climate action plan, all newly constructed buildings at Harper must meet LEED Silver status.

Landscaping at the College is not untouched; Harper  has planted more native plants and now grow these plants in house in the greenhouse in peet pots, thus, reducing the waste of plastic pots. Also, vegetated swales can be seen in the north parking lot and near the new parking garage.

Harper’s Welding Technology department has even become involved in sustainability efforts. The Welding department build two new bicycle racks which hold seven bikes — these racks, which are placed in front of the new buildings promote both welding and bicycling.

According to the College, “The [welding] class will work each semester to fabricate two bike racks and Physical Plant staff will continue to install the bike racks on campus. This is a great opportunity to showcase student work on campus while helping to contribute to Harper’s green efforts. Instructor Adam Phan shares his excitement for “spotlighting our program and giving the students such a great opportunity to have a long lasting, positive impact on campus; this is really something we can all be proud of.”

Harper is also moving toward stream recycling where all items that can be recycled can be thrown in the same bin instead of having to separate items, making it easier for those on campus to participate in recycling efforts. Also, those water bottle filling stations located throughout campus have eliminated 718,000 one-use bottles, according to Bandman.

Involvement

In addition to Harper’s Environmental Club, the Sustainability Department is offering a Sustainability Series with various programs. The next program is Whole Home Efficiency: Ways To Save Energy and Money on Tuesday, July 21 — free lunch will be provided. For more information about this and upcoming events check out http://goforward.harpercollege.edu/about/consumerinfo/sustainability/.

 

 

Grainger’s New Data Center First LEED Certified Center

Lake Forest, Ill.-based Grainger, the broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating systems, recently announced that its new data center located in Lake Forest, “…is certified as the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] facility of this type,” as stated in a recent Grainger press release.

The new data cenGraingerter features an advanced cooling system where the energy used for cooling the facility is controlled by closely monitoring the air flow using outside air to cool the facility. Due to this feature, Grainger expects the new facility to consume up to 50 percent less energy for cooling compared to similar data centers.

According to the press release, “Data centers usually run nonstop, which means these facilities can consume up to 200 times more electricity than typical office spaces. Most of this energy is used to cool the building as temperatures from IT equipment housed in a data center can reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This Grainger data center’s air cooling design is anticipated to have a best-in-class PUE rating of 1.2 at full capacity; the industry average is 2.0.”

“Our goal is always to build the most sustainable facility possible,” said Gail Edgar, vice president of Grainger Real Estate and Facilities Services. “One of the most important components of the project was to realize significant energy savings by maintaining a low Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which measures the energy used beyond the IT load.”

According to Grainger’s Web site, the company is committed to building more buildings up to LEED standards. Grainger became the first industrial distributor to have a LEED-certified facility in 2008. Presently, the company operates 16 LEED-certified buildings in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and construction is underway for its newest facility in Toronto.

The Web site states, “By sharing best practices across facilities, almost all Grainger buildings have adapted some components of LEED certification requirements in areas such as recycling, waste disposal, lighting and cleaning. For example, the company has retrofitted 168 facilities in Canada and the United States with energy efficient lighting, decreasing annual energy consumption by an average of 15 percent per facility.”

The United States Green Building Council’s LEED program “… is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.”

Chicago Shows Signs of Green Hope

About a month ago I attended the Building Green Chicago Conference & Expo, sponsored by Sustainable Chicago magazine and was happy to be among other agreeing individuals representing many professions from the building industry, city employees and students – a sign of the future.

Deborah Stone, Cook County’s first Sustainability Officer and Director of the Cook County Department of Environmental Control was this year’s keynote speaker.

DSC00057According to Stone, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) by 80 percent by 2050. The June 5, 2013 Report of the Cook County Advisory Council reported that in 2012, 150 structures consumed 247 million kwhs of energy and 13 million therms of natural gas. County government buildings use consume 90 percent of the city’s energy. The top three structures of focus are:

  • Department of Corrections – 35%
  • Stroger Hospital Campus – 26%
  • Various remaining buildings – 11%

Stone also noted that Preckwinkle’s vision is for Chicago to be the most sustainable county it can be.

The Sustainability Advisory Report, which was released in June 3013 states “Building energy is the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 67 percent of the emissions in the County.”

During her presentation, Stone explained that the County is ahead of its reduction of emissions target. The reduction of GHGs is not seen as a project, but is a driving force. GHGs impact five million residents and 130 muncipalities; these emissions cause  climate change in various ways including extreme weather and different health impacts. According to the June 2013 Report, the environmental benefits of reducing GHGs include environmental benefits from efficiencies in the conservation of water, land and other natural resources; reduction of particulates, toxic metals and other pollutants.

Please note – I am always looking for new ideas about green efforts and the environment to blog about – both local (Chicago area), general and global. I’m also very interested in expanding upon these ideas and writing more research-driven articles for publications.  Also, I apologize for the delay on this blog – there was a lot going on and I just could not find the time to write the article until now.  Please contact me if you like – lrjwriteedit@gmail.com.

 

Some Good Green News For Illinois

Illinois is not usually known for “being green” – Chicago’s towering skyscrapers and congested traffic emitting pollution is usually the first image that comes to mind when people think of Illinois. But, Chicago has made many efforts toward helping out Mother Earth, starting with former Mayor Richard J. Daley and continuing with present Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But, for those of use who are native Illinoisans, there is much more to the state than just Chicago – beautiful Lake County to the north of the city and to Southern Illinois with its rolling hills and grand green pastures.

DePaul University's Theatre Building.

DePaul University’s Theatre Building.

Illinois garnered the number one slot with 171 projects at 24.5 million square feet in 2013. Some of the LEED buildings of note include Powell Elementary School, the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the DePaul Theatre School, which was recently awarded LEED Gold certification.

According to a recent USGBC article, “The list of the Top 10 States for LEED is a continuing indicator of the widespread recognition of our national imperative to create healthier, high-performing buildings that are better for the environment as well as the people who use them every day,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

Also noted in the USGBC article, Governor Quinn stated, “Both the public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in the 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment…Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader.”