Boston College has pushed in recent years to create work and living environments that are more eco-friendly, with the construction of 2150 Commonwealth Ave. as the latest step in a sustainable direction. The new dorm, set to be completed in summer 2016, is being constructed with an emphasis on water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, and the types of materials and resources used in construction.
Robert Pion, the Sustainability Program director at BC, said that the new dorm will offer students more control over their environment, whether it is the amount of lighting or having individual thermostats in each room.
“The idea behind that is that if you’re creating an environment that is a healthy environment for people, then they’re going to be more productive, they’ll enjoy their life better, they’ll be healthier,” Pion said. “That’s the whole focus around LEED [Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design], to ensure a really good environment, but an environment that is going to be sustainable without using lots of additional energy or resources.”
Guided by the LEED certification system, BC has set a goal for all new buildings to be at least categorized as “Silver,” or receiving at least 50 out of a possible 110 points. Stokes Hall received a Silver rating when it was built and BC also received Platinum designations—anything over 80 points—when it built the four Jesuit residences on Foster St.
“The intent is that if there’s a new building going up, that it’s going to be an efficient building, so that if there’s a building coming off line, you’re getting rid of the inefficient building, the building that consumes a lot of energy that consumes a lot of electricity, [and replacing it] with the more efficient building,” Pion said.
Close attention has been paid to the construction of 2150 Comm. Ave. to ensure that the high efficiency appliances can perform to the maximum efficiency. Throughout the design and construction process, the building has been subject to model and sample testing to make sure the building is completely sealed. The dorm has high efficiency windows that are designed to reflect sunlight in the summer and prevent a buildup of heat, and also serve as better insulators during the winter. The result will be a decrease in the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the building throughout the year.
LEED also awards credits for buildings that emphasize water efficiency, and 2150 Comm. Ave. is going to reduce its water consumption by an estimated 35 percent, Pion said. All of the toilets will be dual flush and there will be a gray-water recycling system in the basement that will end the usage of potable water that is used to flush toilets. The goal, Pion said, is to eliminate any instances where you use potable water for services other than drinking.
Currently, there are no concrete plans for implementing drastically green features on campus. BC neglected to install a green roof or solar panels on top of 2150 Comm. Ave., and there are no plans to create an entirely sustainable building. Pion said that BC is not interested in putting in solar panels, for example, just for the sake of being able to claim they use solar panels. He said such an investment has to prove that it can be cost effective and return a realistic amount of renewable energy. The University is more focused on the low hanging fruits, as Pion described it: high-efficiency boilers, shower heads, and light fixtures are all tangible and cost-effective upgrades to outdated systems.
The University is looking at the creation of a sustainable campus as an ongoing process. BC spends around $1 million each year on renovations, and many of these renovations are upgrades to current systems to reduce energy consumption.
The Sustainability Program at BC, however, recognizes that new buildings with high efficient windows and gray-water recycling machines can only do so much. Pion said that there needs to be a radical change amongst the BC community to have an immediate impact on the University’s eco-footprint. That means students and staff would need to listen to and implement the initiatives of groups on campus like EcoPledge and the environmental caucus of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College. He said small, personal action will make an immediate change on campus, and creating a culture that focuses on sustainability will create long-lasting changes quicker than if students just wait for BC to install solar panels on every building.
“Ultimately we all need to take personal responsibility for how we will individually and collectively address the issues and situations that have risen as a result of these changes,” Pion said. “These smaller actions combined together make a more immediate impact upon our own campus environment and hopefully open our eyes to the bigger picture and its demands upon us.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor