Colleges apply ‘green building’ practices

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(Host) Two Vermont colleges say they’re looking for new ways to reduce their impact on the environment. They believe their efforts could have benefits for all Vermonters.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) On a recent afternoon, a cold wind blew through the empty doors and window frames of an old one story building on the University of Vermont campus, as a half dozen workers pounded holes in the walls and ripped down sheet rock. What looked like demolition was actually deconstruction.

Until a few years ago, this building would have been reduced to rubble and that rubble trucked off to the landfill. Now much of the material is recycled or reused. Rob Ricketson of Recycle North is overseeing the UVM project.

(Ricketson) “We obviously aren’t able to recycle or reuse all the materials, but our diversion rate is very high. We’re able to recycle or reuse approximately 60 percent of any given structure.”

(Zind) The old building’s insulation, doors, plumbing fixtures and lumber will be resold. The concrete from the foundation will be reused for new student residence halls at UVM. Unlike the ones being torn down, those buildings will be constructed using materials and techniques that conform to national green building standards.

Deconstruction and green building are two facets of UVM’s campus greening effort. Gioia Thompson of the UVM Environmental Council says a stroll around campus would reveal a five-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the heating plant, a fleet of bio-diesel busses and a variety of student projects and displays that demonstrate a campus wide interest in greening.

(Thompson) “The idea with the campus greening effort is that it should not only be something that technical people in some back room are aware of what the impacts are. What we are trying to do is have campus-wide awareness so that everybody can find ways, whether you’re a staff person or a student or a faculty member to do something.”

(Zind) Thompson says universities are good breeding grounds for new environmental ideas, combining academic interest, research facilities – and student idealism.

At Middlebury College, composting, recycling, deconstruction and alternative fuels are all part of campus life. What director of Environmental Affairs Nan Jenks-Jay is excited about is how the college is working to broaden the impact of campus greening to affect the local economy.

That happened when the college used furniture for its new library that was made in Vermont from wood grown using sustainable forestry practices. Jenks-Jay says doing that required an unusual alliance of architects, loggers, foresters and furniture makers.

(Jenks-Jay) “We go to the forest for the wood, we don’t go to the lumber yard for it. We had to make our architects and our engineers think that way because they go to the catalogue to order their furniture. We said, We don’t want to go to the catalogue to order the furniture for the library, we want to go to Vermont craftsmen.”

(Zind) Jenks-Jay envisions the same kind of thing happening with bio-fuels. Cutting down on energy consumption is one area where both Middlebury and UVM say they need to focus in the future. Despite conservation efforts and modest growth, energy use at UVM increased more than 20 percent over five years.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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