Hollins’ Green Initiatives Move Forward with First LEED Silver-Certified Building

LEEDA historic structure on the Hollins University campus has earned the institution its first-ever Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

The Green Building Certification Institute has awarded the newly renovated Robbie Hunt Burton Alumnae Cottage its LEED Silver classification in recognition of the sustainable building components used during the remodeling effort.

Alumnae Cottage, a guest residence originally constructed in 1905, features the first geothermal heating and cooling system on campus; low-maintenance building materials containing recycled content, including ceramic tile, particle board, and fiberglass insulation; renewable materials such as bamboo flooring and cabinet doors; high energy-efficient appliances; and low-flow toilets, faucets, and showers to enhance water conservation. In addition, one hundred percent of the construction waste from the project was recycled.

“The Alumnae Cottage renovation represents a significant step forward in our efforts toward reducing and ultimately eliminating the university’s carbon footprint,” said Kerry Edmonds, Hollins’ vice president for finance and administration. “Without the partnership and guidance of Blacksburg-based architect Peter Ozolins, the engineering firm Moser Mayer Phoenix Associates of Greensboro, project managers Raymond Hunt and Mike Brown with Richmond-based contractor EDC, and contractor R.L. Price Construction of Salem, we could not have achieved our LEED certification objective.”

LEED is an internationally-recognized green building certification system that promotes sustainable building and development practices. It acknowledges commercial and residential initiatives that put into action plans that seek superior performance in five significant areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

The Green Building Certification Institute is an independent, non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. It was established in 2008 with the support of the U.S. Green Building Council.

New Geothermal Well System Offers Major Advantages for Heating, Cooling

geothermalHollins University completed construction this summer on its largest geothermal well field, a project that has significant implications for energy efficiency on campus.

The new geothermal system serves Tinker Hall, the university’s largest student residence.

The critical difference between a geothermal system and a standard residential heat pump unit is that the former uses the ground as a heat exchange medium while the latter utilizes air. A geothermal system takes advantage of the stable, nearly constant temperatures of the earth below the frost line; an air source heat pump becomes much less efficient as air temperatures become more extreme.  The result is improved temperature control, better indoor air quality, and lower energy costs.

A geothermal system offers other benefits. It does not require a noisy chiller or cooling tower. Geothermal heat pumps have fewer moving parts and can last 20 – 25 years, while the life of a chiller is as little as 15 years and a high-efficiency boiler can last just 10 years. Geothermal wells need much less maintenance than both steam and chilled water lines and are expected to function 50 years or longer.

The number of geothermal wells originally planned for this project was scaled down, thanks to the fact that the Hollins campus has “great dirt” that creates a high level of thermal conductivity. This helps increase the performance of the system and also helps lower costs and land disturbance.

The installation of the geothermal system at Tinker Hall is a big step toward Hollins’ goal of carbon neutrality.

Hollins Reports Significant Decrease in Campus Energy Use During 2011-12

energyHollins University is making great strides toward meeting its goal of carbon neutrality by the year 2040, according to a recently completed carbon footprint analysis for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The university’s annual carbon emissions dropped to roughly 14,200 tons, an 11 percent decrease from 2010-11. “This is the equivalent of taking 185 homes off the grid for the entire year,” said Energy Manager Jesse Freedman.

Overall, Hollins has reduced its carbon footprint by 19 percent since President Nancy Gray signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2007, exceeding its goal of achieving a 15 percent reduction by 2014. Through the ACUPCC, Hollins joined colleges and universities across the nation in pledging to sharply reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions on their campuses. The university’s carbon emissions per thousand square feet are 7.5 percent less than the average emissions for its peer institutions.

Freedman said Hollins’ dramatic reduction in emissions came primarily from the university’s decrease in electricity consumption, which was down more than one million kilowatt hours, or 8.8 percent, in 2011-12. “We did it by setting back buildings at night, resetting thermostats in classrooms and offices, and optimizing steam and chilled water production,” he explained, adding that changing individual behaviors was crucial in lowering energy use.

“Our first annual residence hall energy challenge, in which five residence halls competed to reduce usage of electricity and water, and an event called ‘Low Power Hour,’ where the everyone was encouraged to lower their energy consumption one day for 60 minutes, helped bolster awareness and empower students, faculty and staff,” Freedman said. “We know we can’t reach our carbon reduction goals without the active participation of the entire campus community, and our progress shows the entire Hollins campus has embraced this initiative.”

Another big step toward Hollins’ goal of carbon neutrality is the completion this summer of a new geothermal well field that serves Tinker Hall, the university’s largest student residence. A geothermal system offers improved temperature control, better indoor air quality, lower energy costs, and greater efficiencies overall than an air source heat pump.

Freedman said Hollins is now looking ahead to its next big milestone: a one-third reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2020.

“It may sound daunting, but we are already more than halfway there.”

Hollins to Participate in Campus Conservation Nationals 2013

energyHollins University is joining the more than 200 colleges and universities  that are taking part in Campus Conservation Nationals (CCN) 2013, a nationwide electricity and water use reduction competition.

Between February and April 2013, students at Hollins and across the country will vie to achieve the greatest reductions in their residence halls over a three-week period, which at Hollins will be February 20 – March 13.

The event was created by The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) through its Students Program and in partnership with Lucid, a cleantech software company; Alliance to Save Energy; and the National Wildlife Federation.

“CCN is an opportunity to make immediate and lasting impacts on our carbon emissions and campus culture,” said Hollins Energy Manager Jesse Freedman.

During CCN 2012, Hollins’ first year in the competition, over 208,000 students, living in 1,200 buildings at 100 colleges and universities, collectively reduced 1.7 MWH of electricity and 1.5M gallons of water, saving schools $157,925 worth of electricity. The goal of the 2013 competition is to build on that success and encourage students to brainstorm innovative solutions for how their school can save energy and cut costs.

“CCN provides the perfect venue for students to demonstrate how their collective drive, paired with individual action and responsibility, can have a significant impact on their campuses and communities,” said Pat Lane, USGBC Students Program manager at the Center for Green Schools. “We are excited to build upon the success of previous years and empower a new corps of student organizers to be green building leaders.”

“The growth of CCN clearly demonstrates the desire and ability for people to change their behavior when it comes to using resources,” added Andrew deCoriolis, director of marketing and engagement at Lucid.

Participating schools can choose to compete against buildings on their own campus or against a select group of peer institutions, with savings from all participants accumulating to reach a national challenge goal. Using Lucid’s Building Dashboard®, competitors will be able to instantly compare performance, share winning strategies, and track standings among the leading schools and buildings.

To learn more about the competition, visit www.CompeteToReduce.org.

Hollins Collaborates with American Chestnut Foundation to Plant Trees on Campus

plantHollins University faculty and staff are partnering with a regional conservation organization to help restore what was once an essential component of the ecosystem in the eastern United States.

Biology professors Ryan Huish and Morgan Wilson and Audio Visual Assistant Anna Copplestone have worked with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) to plant ten American chestnut tree saplings on the Hollins campus this spring.

A brief ceremony was held on May 13 marking the planting of three of the saplings on the hillside behind Cromer Bergman Alumnae House.

At one time, an estimated four billion chestnut trees, one-quarter of the country’s hardwood tree population, grew over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida. The tree was an important food source for a variety of wildlife, rural communities depended on annual chestnut harvests as a cash crop to feed livestock, and the chestnut lumber industry played a significant role in rural economies. However, a lethal fungus infestation that occurred during the first half of the 20th century nearly decimated the American chestnut tree population.

In 1983, a group of prominent plant scientists established TACF to successfully reintroduce the American chestnut tree to its native habitat in the United States. Headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina, TACF has used a plant breeding technique known as “backcrossing” to incorporate blight resistance into the American chestnut.

At Hollins, the chestnut trees will serve as an educational tool for the biology department, and as “a living symbol of the hope of ongoing biological exploration as well as a tribute to the biocultural heritage of our region,” said Copplestone.


Hollins Receives $50,000 Jessie Ball duPont Fund Grant to Support Energy Conservation Initiatives

bulbHollins University has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to establish a green revolving fund that furthers a campus culture of environmental sustainability.

Hollins is providing matching funds of $100,000, bringing the total value of the green revolving fund to $150,000.

“The grant and matching funds will enable Hollins to immediately implement several of the most urgent and cost-effective energy conservation projects identified by our energy manager,” explains Hollins President Nancy Gray. “The support of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has already helped us meet our carbon reduction goals well ahead of schedule, and we are deeply grateful for their continued generosity.”

Hollins will appoint a five-member Green Revolving Fund Board to select and oversee a number of initiatives that will receive revolving loans beginning this fall. Potential energy conservation projects include installing energy-efficient lighting on the exterior of Dana Science Building and inside Moody Student Center and the Athletic Complex’s main gymnasium; performing a software upgrade to optimize the chillers and cooling towers in the university’s central chilled water plant, which provides cooling to much of the campus; purchasing an automated cover for the Aquatic Center swimming pool to significantly reduce energy and water consumption; and upgrading the Athletic Complex’s HVAC system to promote better temperature regulation and control, and improve indoor air quality.

A national foundation based in Jacksonville, Florida, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has worked with small colleges and universities since 2009 to encourage and sustain efforts to reduce energy consumption and, in so doing, reduce costs. In 2011, the Fund presented a $200,000 grant to Hollins and Emory & Henry College to support a joint, three-year energy conservation project, a key component of which was the hiring of a shared energy manager to conduct a comprehensive assessment of energy consumption on each campus; identify strategies to further decrease energy use; develop and implement energy policies for each institution; and enhance educational activities to promote energy conservation by members of each campus community.

Hollins Continues Partnership with Local Nonprofit to Implement Energy Solutions

barbeeIn collaboration with Community Housing Partners (CHP), a regional, not-for-profit housing and community development organization, Hollins University is completing an energy efficiency retrofit of one of the historic structures on campus during the week of November 11.

The work follows a comprehensive energy audit conducted by CHP last January at Barbee House, which offers guest accommodations at Hollins. The audit identified exactly where and how the building loses energy and determined what measures can be taken to retrofit the building for more efficient energy use. The auditors evaluated heating and air conditioning systems, insulation and air leakage, windows and doors, water heating, lighting, and other appliances.

The construction will focus on addressing the substantial heat loss in Barbee that was confirmed by the audit. Workers will perform air sealing in the attic and basement/crawlspace areas, while insulation will be bolstered in the attic and sidewalls.

The retrofit project is supported by a green revolving fund that was established at Hollins in May. The university was awarded a $50,000 grant by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to further a campus culture of environmental sustainability and Hollins provided matching funds of $100,000, bringing the total value of the fund to $150,000. According to the Sustainable Endowments Institute, “Green revolving funds invest in energy efficiency projects to reduce energy consumption and reinvest the money saved in future projects.”

“The retrofit is part of a portfolio of approximately $65,000 worth of projects that we’ve identified to tackle in this first year,” said Hollins Energy Manager Jesse Freedman. “The Barbee project is estimated to save us about $4,500 a year, and will improve indoor air quality and make the space more comfortable for our guests.”

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund is a national foundation based in Jacksonville, Florida, that works with small colleges and universities to encourage and sustain efforts to reduce energy consumption and, in so doing, reduce costs. In 2011, the fund presented a $200,000 grant to Hollins and Emory & Henry College to support a joint, three-year energy conservation project, a key component of which was the hiring of a shared energy manager to conduct a comprehensive assessment of energy consumption on each campus; identify strategies to further decrease energy use; develop and implement energy policies for each institution; and enhance educational activities to promote energy conservation by members of each campus community.

Hollins, Four Other Virginia Private Colleges Announce Major Renewable Energy Initiative

recyclingHollins University is joining Emory & Henry College, Lynchburg College, Randolph College, and Sweet Briar College to become the first institutions of higher learning in Virginia to provide 100 percent renewable electricity to their respective campuses.

As a result, the independent colleges are offsetting between 50 and 70 percent of their total carbon footprints and establishing a new standard for sustainability at colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. The colleges estimate a combined savings of between $3.2 million and $6.4 million over the next 12 years.

The five schools have entered into agreements with Collegiate Clean Energy (CCE), which provides colleges, universities, and businesses with renewable energy products, and is an affiliate of Ingenco, Virginia’s largest landfill gas (LFG) to energy operator. Landfills account for 35 percent of all manmade methane emissions in the United States, and by capturing those emissions, LFG to energy projects preserve the environment while reducing the need for fossil fuel.

“LFG is 21 times more destructive to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide,” explained Thomas Loehr, president of CCE. “By converting LFG, we all enjoy a dual benefit of reducing greenhouse gases and at the same time producing renewable energy.

“Emory & Henry, Hollins, Lynchburg, Randolph, and Sweet Briar are showing they are leaders in environmental sustainability by taking action to make a real difference.”

Electricity generated from LFG will be delivered to each college through the distribution system owned by Appalachian Power Company.

The Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV) coordinated the sustainability initiative. Robert Perrow, a partner with the Richmond law firm of Williams Mullen, represented CICV in negotiating and preparing the agreements.

“Virginia’s private colleges have always been interested in being at the forefront of sustainability and protection of the environment,” said CICV President Robert Lambeth. “Our members were open to investigating the opportunity to purchase 100 percent renewable energy produced in Virginia, and CICV was happy to provide the help needed to make these agreements a reality.”

Hollins Featured in “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges: 2014 Edition”

PrintThe Princeton Review has named Hollins University one of the United States and Canada’s most environmentally responsible colleges in the fifth annual edition of their Guide to 332 Green Colleges.

The guide was created in partnership with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council.

Schools were selected based on a survey conducted in 2013 of administrators at hundreds of four-year colleges to measure their commitment to the environment and to sustainability. The institutional survey included questions about course offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation.

“Hollins University has been leading the sustainability charge for quite some time,” the guide states, citing Hollins’ geothermal well field at Tinker Hall and 2.6-kilowatt solar facility as well as the annual energy challenge to reduce electricity and water usage in residence halls. The guide also notes that Hollins became a charter signatory in 2007 of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, “and aims to become totally carbon neutral by 2040.”

“We are pleased to recommend Hollins to the many students seeking colleges that practice and promote environmentally responsible choices and practices,” said Rob Franek, senior vice president and publisher at The Princeton Review.

A free download of The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges: 2014 Edition is available here.