In late February I had the opportunity to attend the Toward Zero Net Energy (TZNE) Retrofit Program “Charrette” ‒ a collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem ‒ at Holyoke Community College (HCC). The purpose of this charrette was to look at how to create a more sustainable campus at HCC and dramatically reduce campus energy use. As a sustainability student, this charrette was both exciting and informative as I was able to witness how decisions are made at the school as well as recognize how passionate participants are about energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In a world where sustainability has yet to become a major concern for the average person, I am inspired to see what HCC has planned for its future. Last semester, my class worked on sustainability targets for HCC and was successful in convincing the Sustainability Committee to ban plastic water bottles, retrofit water refill stations, use compostable tableware, and upgrade the composting system. At this charrette, I was pleased to learn that HCC has gone even further to include projects such as rainwater harvesting, hybrid solar thermal, real-time energy management, lighting upgrades, electrical phantom power reduction, external insulation, plumbing fixture upgrades, and a solar dehumidifier for the exercise room.
I also learned that HCC has aggressive clean energy goals for 2020, including a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 30% renewable energy target of total campus electric consumption. HCC is one of 700 state sites that will undergo energy efficiency retrofits through the Commonwealth’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), clearly demonstrating the state’s intent to “lead by example” and show what state facilities can accomplish.
Participation from faculty, staff, students, and state representatives was critical to an effective brainstorming session. Everyone quickly agreed that a transformation of the human mindset is imperative for a sustainable future. We discussed the need to incorporate education about energy use and efficiency as a way to get the entire campus community involved and excited about sustainability efforts, hopefully inspiring individual lifestyle changes as well. Ideas we considered:
- Create an interactive dashboard where people are able to see clean energy being generated as well as energy being saved.
- Integrate sustainability projects into every field of study at HCC: English students writing papers about the projects and photography students journaling projects through pictures.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless while constantly learning about the negative effects people are having on the earth. Issues like climate change, water shortages and overflowing landfills are all problems our generation will have to address. Despite these and other concerns, I felt empowered to participate in such a meaningful discussion and am excited to be a student at a school that cares this much about the future of the earth and my education. I look forward to seeing some of the ideas from the charrette turned into reality as they will be a fantastic learning tool for future students and an eye-opener for the many people who are still in the dark about sustainability and its importance. Overall, I think HCC is up to great things and I am proud to be an involved HCC student.
Tags: zero net energy building
Banking on Residential Solar Power posted on Sep 16
“It’s a house, it’s a car, it’s a … solar panel?” In the coming months, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) is hoping a new residential solar loan program will spark that question and interest in renewable power at local lending institutions across the Commonwealth. …Continue Reading Banking on Residential Solar Power
Building Efficiency Gurus Exchange Ideas on Just About Everything posted on Sep 5
The American Council for Energy Efficient-Economy (ACEEE) selected me to present a paper on the Commonwealth’s Green Communities Program at ACEEE’s Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. It felt like going to college – the seniors all knew each other, while the freshmen were …Continue Reading Building Efficiency Gurus Exchange Ideas on Just About Everything
Comparing Homes – Energy-Saving Enters the Equation posted on Aug 28
Until recently, there was no way to easily figure energy efficiency into a home buying decision. Enter HomeMPG, a Massachusetts energy-saving initiative to pilot an energy performance score (EPS) in residential homes. This “asset” rating that’s analogous to a car’s MPG rating. Behavior is taken out of the equation so that any home’s energy use can be compared to any other home, allowing for an apples-to-apples comparison.