Gannon University Supports Innovative Green Initiatives Across Campus

Posted: April 22, 2015

The classic American college campus, with its verdant quads and tree-lined walks is where you would expect to find environmentally conscious initiatives. Yet Gannon University's urban campus offers its own share of opportunities to reduce energy usage, noise pollution, and with them, the cost of operating a physical plant consisting of more than 50 buildings.

Some of these projects, such as the conversion to more efficient lighting in Beyer Hall, a classroom building, and in the Hammermill Center, seem small-scaled-until you look at the savings, in this case more than $70,000 in energy costs.

And campus-wide, energy-saving initiatives have reduced the University's carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 1,500 metric tons a year.

Some projects are large-scale endeavors in every way. The replacement of the forest of heating and cooling towers on the roof of the Zurn Science center last summer was one such project.

"At the time, we renovated the building years ago, the engineering firm designed [the equipment] to operate at 100 percent of capacity, 100 percent of the time," said Gary Garnic, associate vice president for campus services.
"Energy to exhaust air is a big expense. Energy to heat or cool new air is expensive, too. So we came up with a plan to change rooftop equipment so that when motion detectors sense that there aren't students in the building, we reduce capacity." Garnic estimates the savings at $88,000 a year.

The new equipment saved more than energy, too. The equipment, using variable speed drives, is quieter, especially at night, something the residents of Methodist Towers, an apartment building for older adults adjacent to Zurn, have come to appreciate.

Garnic and his team have also been innovative in finding ways to reduce energy consumption and save money. One is an energy curtailment system by which the University is paid to voluntarily reduce the amount of electricity it uses during peak times when the power grid is most stressed. That saved $23,000 in the last year measured.

At North Hall, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system has two energy recovery systems and the residence hall's lighting was designed at to use electricity at 34 percent below the energy standard. Low-flow plumbing and carpeting that is low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were also used.

Gannon buildings have green, white and foam roofs. "The green roofs are models, because our buildings weren't designed with the load of a true green roof in mind," Garnic said. Still, the exit canopies at Zurn are green. Garnic said that the cooling effect of the green and white roofs is even more important in the city, where so-called "heat islands" created by asphalt streets and dark roofs can be mitigated.

 Reuse and recycle is a strategy gaining momentum on campus. When the $14.5 million-dollar renovation of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center was being planned, the contractor brought in a screening plant that removed the rubble in the soil, which was hauled out and the soil was reused on site, rather than bringing in new soil.

Similarly, when new furniture was ordered for Wickford Apartments, the used furniture wasn't sent to a landfill, but rather to a charity that shipped the gently used tables, desks and wardrobes to Nicaragua, where they were distributed to families in poverty. Increased recycling saved more than $20,000 in trash-hauling fees last year.

It's a notion that appeals to Garnic, who built an electric vehicle on the platform of a 2002 Chevrolet Tracker, just for fun. That project is indicative of the spirit of experimentation that Garnic and his staff bring to their jobs. Their next project?

"If we combine all the electric meters in Harborview Apartments--86 of them--we can save the meter cost," he said. We'll put sub-meters in linked to the building automation system, and we can have energy-saving competition between students to see who can save the most. Wouldn't that be interesting?"