Hollins Enters Into Cooperative Agreement to Pave the Way for Solar Energy on Campus

Hollins University and 14 other private nonprofit colleges in Virginia will be developing comprehensive plans to implement solar power, thanks to more than $807,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.

Sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV), the three-year program will help Hollins and the other colleges navigate the complex legal, regulatory, and technical challenges associated with installing solar systems, leverage group purchasing power to achieve price reductions for hardware and installation services, and create a learning network accessible by other organizations considering solar power. Consulting services will be provided to CICV by Optony, Inc., a global consulting firm focused on solar energy.

“CICV member colleges are interested in sustainability and reducing their carbon footprints,” said CICV President Robert Lambeth, who serves as principal investigator for the program. “Our recent success with a collaboration that now provides five of our colleges [including Hollins] with electricity generated from landfill gas provided the impetus for expanding our efforts to solar power.

“The SunShot Initiative presents an opportunity to work as a team to effectively make progress in an area that is challenging when working individually, particularly for our smaller schools that may be limited in the resources they can commit to installing solar.”

The funding is a landmark achievement for CICV, as it is the first time the organization has sought federal funds to further its mission of collaboration among its members.

“SunShot is CICV’s first attempt at securing federal money to help our members meet their sustainability goals,” said Director of Business Operations Anita Girelli. “We have had success with so many collaborative projects; it seemed natural to continue those efforts in an area that is of such importance to our members, their communities, and the environment.”

The ultimate goal is to create and implement a replicable plan for participating institutions to deploy solar electricity within five years. This project has the potential to substantially increase the total amount of solar power now produced within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Drawing on expertise from select faculty and staff at participating colleges and universities, the project will eliminate duplication of effort and create a streamlined process for these institutions to plan for, acquire, and implement solar energy systems on their campuses. Students at participating schools will contribute their time and effort to the program.

“Involving students in the process from start to finish will provide educational opportunities and exposure to innovative and current topics – knowledge we hope will inspire them to continue sustainability efforts long after their college years,” said Girelli.

“While solar energy is not their primary mission, our member colleges are proud to be good stewards of the earth and positive role models for their students and communities,” said Lambeth. “Many [including Hollins] are signatories to the Presidents’ Climate Commitment and are committed to becoming climate neutral. Solar energy is one way to make progress toward those goals.”

Along with Hollins, the colleges involved in the collaborative initiative are Appalachian School of Law, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, Emory & Henry College, Ferrum College, Hampton University, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin College, Marymount University, Randolph College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Virginia Union University, and Washington & Lee University.

Hollins Featured in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges

2011greenHollins University is one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the United States and Canada, according to the second annual edition of The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Colleges: 2011 Edition.

Created by The Princeton Review in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the guidebook profiles institutions of higher learning that demonstrate a notable commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation. The Princeton Review chose the schools for this guide based on a survey of administrators at hundreds of colleges that the company polled in 2010 about their school’s sustainability initiatives.

Released today in conjunction with the 41st anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, the book includes facts, statistics, and write-ups reporting on each school’s environmentally related policies, practices, and academic offerings. The free guide can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide.aspx.

“College-bound students are increasingly interested in sustainability issues,” said The Princeton Review’s Robert Franek. “Together with the USGBC, we are pleased to make this free resource available to all students seeking to attend colleges that practice, teach, and support environmentally responsible choices. We highly recommend the colleges in this book.”

Hollins’ recognition in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges comes as the university installs the first solar panels on campus. The panels will directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity, reducing the amount of non-green energy Hollins must purchase. The project is made possible by a $30,000 grant from a new initiative established by The Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Richmond-based Dominion Resources, one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy.

Hollins Makes Significant Strides in Reducing Its Carbon Footprint

footprintIn 2007, Hollins University President Nancy Gray joined hundreds of other college presidents from across the country in signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging to lessen and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions on campus. In compliance, Hollins developed a Strategic Plan for Carbon Reduction, a plan that is generating positive results.

An analysis prepared by Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Renee Godard shows Hollins reduced its carbon footprint by 9% in 2010-2011, far exceeding the target of 6% for the year.

“This achievement is due in part to an improvement in the carbon load associated with the electricity we purchase,” Gray explained. “But much of the credit goes to our initiatives, individually and campus-wide, toward lowering electricity consumption. Simple habits, such as turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, unplugging electrical equipment when not in use, and turning down heating and cooling units, are having a tremendous impact.”

Gray added that Hollins has also made progress in decreasing the amount of animal agriculture and landfill waste the university generates.

“I congratulate our students, faculty and staff on their continuing dedication and effort in addressing the challenges of climate change, and in establishing Hollins as a role model for the community at large in this endeavor,” Gray said. “They are truly making a difference.”

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.