Building Green at EMU

A longstanding focus on sustainability and stewardship enables EMU to use almost half the amount of energy as most other institutions its size. That same focus helped our campus to be the first in Virginia to obtain LEED Gold standard on a building.

Committed to eco-great buildings

With the completion of renovations to Maplewood residence hall in time for the fall 2011 semester, all three residence halls surrounding the “Woods quad” at EMU – Cedarwood, Elmwood and Maplewood – have been constructed or renovated to meet LEED Gold standards for environmental sustainability.

Cedarwood and Elmwood residence halls have LEED Gold certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council, with the Gold certification for Maplewood pending in the fall of 2012.

As of July 2012, EMU’s two LEED Gold-certified buildings were among just 123 such buildings on university campuses across the country. Besides the ones at EMU, there is just one other LEED Gold building on any Virginia university campus, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Cedarwood, built to replace the old Oakwood residence hall, opened in the fall of 2009 and was the first to receive the LEED Gold certification. Elmwood was renovated in time for the spring 2011 semester.

Local and recycled materials

Green features include locally-sourced building materials and native landscaping.

Green features of the residence halls include the use of numerous recycled materials, recycling of nearly all construction waste, high-efficiency lighting and plumbing fixtures, extensive natural lighting, low-VOC materials and an emphasis on locally-sourced building materials.

Surrounding the buildings is landscaping with native plants that require no permanent irrigation system and the use of “biorentention” beds around the residence halls to control storm water runoff.

Highly efficient “variable refrigerant flow” heat pump systems and other features like efficient exhaust systems afford the two dorms energy cost reductions of about 30%, compared to conventional new construction. Additionally, after the first year of operation, electrical use in the dorms is more than 15% further below those projections.

Each room in the new residence halls is equipped with a switch that automatically turns off the room’s heat or AC when the windows are open, allowing students to let in fresh air without wasting climate-controlled air from the inside.

“Even though we’ve upgraded these dorms and made them fully climate controlled, our energy use across campus has gone down,” says Eldon Kurtz, director of EMU’s physical plant.

Reduced energy consumption

EMU is using almost half the amount of energy as most other institutions its size.

After the new constructions and renovation, says Kurtz, EMU added about 80,000 square feet of new air-conditioned space (none of the Woods dormitories were previously air-conditioned). At the same time, the campus’s total electric and gas bill, which averaged an inflation-adjusted $572,000 per year between 1999 and 2008, fell to $519,000 for the 2011-12 fiscal year – a 9% reduction in campus-wide energy costs since the overhaul of the Woods quad.

The Troyer Group, an architecture firm based in Mishawaka, Indiana, designed all three buildings and worked with EMU to meet the stringent LEED standards.

From an energy consumption standpoint, heating, cooling and powering buildings on campus consumed about 45,000 British thermal units (Btu) per square foot of building space – a common way of measuring energy use – over the course of the 2011-12 fiscal year. That’s a 26% improvement from 1999 to 2008, when EMU used a yearly average of 61,000 Btu per square foot across the entire campus.

EMU is using almost half the amount of energy as most other institutions its size. EMU consumed about 49,000 Btu-per-square-foot on campus during the calendar year 2011, according to data from the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, or APPA. The average figure that year for 38 American universities with enrollment between 1,000 and 2,000 students that participated in the APPA survey was 89,000 Btu per square foot.

Because of several concurrent sustainability initiatives on campus, however, including the installation of a PV-solar array on the library roof, it is difficult to measure the precise impact of the dorms alone on EMU’s total energy use and cost.