Flash flooding. Mass extinction. Extreme heat waves.
Every day new alarming stories about the impact of global warming are broadcasted around the world. Students are demanding their institutions take proactive measures against climate change. Southern says it is dedicated to lead and adopt sustainable practices and green building among colleges in Connecticut.
Within the next five years, Southern is planning to expand with the construction of two new buildings: the School of Business and the School of Health and Human Services. The School of Business is predicted to be the first state-owned building in Connecticut to achieve net-zero energy design, which means it will create as much electricity and heating energy as it uses. Some sustainable elements in the design may include solar photovoltaic technology, geothermal heating and cooling and excellent insulation to prevent heated air from escaping. The School of Health and Human Services is estimated to meet the requirements to become LEED certified, and perform 21 percent better than the standard building code, according to the university’s Climate Action Plan.
All future buildings on campus are expected to prioritize energy efficiency. Lighting, electrical, and mechanical operations will adopt the best methods that will balance energy saving with a return on investment. High-efficiency lighting, such as LED, is installed in every building. According to the Energy Master Plan for SCSU, the university is exploring alternative energy, such as an Internal Combustion CHP engine at the energy center to improve efficiency.
Suzanne Huminski, the sustainability coordinator at Southern, said the most effective method of energy efficiency is conservation. Using less energy overall can be achieved through several methods. For example, the construction projects on campus can replace outdated machines with ones that run on cleaner fuel. Furthermore, Huminski stated that renewable forms of clean energy, such as solar panels, have produced the best results because they do not leave a carbon footprint. Southern has already constructed three solar panel arrays around campus that will save about $100,000 per year in utility costs for the upcoming 20 to 25 years. No upfront cost or investment is required from the university, since these projects are fully financed by GE.
A new solar panel project is currently being built in the Davis Hall parking lot behind the Fitch Street parking garage, which will mimic the design of the parking canopy in Parking Lot 9. Construction is anticipated to be finished in December and the panels will be fully operational by spring 2020.
Huminski’s message to students is that everybody needs to be involved. From transportation to food to recycling, everybody has an opportunity to combat the serious effects of climate change.
“Science has confirmed global warning, and we need to take the issue seriously. Youth need to start learning about this because the consequences are already manifesting,” said Derek Faulkner, the treasurer for the Geography, Environment & Marine Sciences Club.
Faulkner, an Environmental Systems & Sustainability Studies major, said, “I see a void in education regarding sustainability in general. There seems to simply be a common theme of apathy or disinterest amongst students and staff.”
Southern signed the Climate Leadership Commitment and is part of 93 colleges across the U.S. that are committed to setting resiliency targets to lower carbon emissions. The university has again voluntarily pledged a climate action plan, which details its goals of net carbon neutrality as soon as possible and by 2050 at the latest. According to SCSU’s Climate Leadership Commitment, the campus has succeeded its goal set in 2008 for a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions in 2020.
“Because of all the different types of projects that the university has completed in the past 10 years, we’ve cut our carbon emissions for our building by 50 percent,” reported Huminski.
Another significant way SCSU contributes toward carbon emissions reduction is by purchasing 100 percent renewably produced electricity. Sharing these advancements with other schools and businesses demonstrates the university’s authority in sustainability.
“Our accomplishments so far are significant,” said Huminski. “And we are proud of them and we went to see them grow.”