As we move deeper into the spring semester, Columbia continues to expand our environmental stewardship efforts to enhance the long-term sustainability of the University, our local community, our city, and ultimately, our world.
Through the work of students, faculty and staff, this commitment to ongoing improvements in energy efficiency and environmental quality touches so many parts of the University's campus operations and civic engagement. Here in Upper Manhattan, we have created a unique partnership that is providing "green" construction skills training to local women and young adults while ensuring the recycling and reuse of building materials. Cutting-edge research by Columbia scientists and engineers is helping develop a smarter electrical grid, improve energy efficiency and make our local community more resilient to the impacts of climate change. And through many small changes, Columbia is making a big impact by offering locally sourced food through its dining services, expanding the space of its greenmarket, and employing more renewable energy sources. Recently, the University marked a milestone in its sustainability efforts by earning our first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for the Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Laboratory, part of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
As always, we hope that you will join the University's continued commitment to achieving sustainability in your daily lives. Please share your ideas for helping our efforts with the contacts listed at the end of this newsletter.
Senior Executive Vice President
Comer Lab Is First Columbia Building to Achieve LEED Certification
In January, the award-winning Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Laboratory became the University's first LEED-certified building, earning a "silver" rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. Completed in late 2007, the 70,000 square-foot building, part of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, houses extensive lab space directly supporting research and development to advance the understanding of climate science.
The building's certification verifies that the lab was designed and constructed to increase energy savings and water efficiency, reduce emissions, improve indoor environmental quality and enhance the building's overall stewardship of resources. Key features include the maximization of natural lighting and the use of trees to shade the building in the summer, and permeable pavement in the parking area to reduce the flow of contaminants into waterways.
The building's application was filed in October 2009. Three other Columbia buildings are currently awaiting LEED certification: Faculty House, Knox Hall and McVickar Hall, home of the new Columbia Alumni Center. Other Columbia buildings registered in the LEED program include the Northwest Corner Building and the Campbell Sports Center.
The Comer building was named the 2009 "Lab of the Year" by Research and Development magazine and has been featured in USA Today and the Chronicle of Higher Education for its unique design and energy efficiency. The building also won sustainable design and excellence in architecture awards from the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Institute of Architects.
Columbia University Medical Center Launches Campus Energy Audit, Hires New Energy Manager
Next month, Columbia University Medical Center staff and external experts will begin a thorough review of the Washington Heights campus to identify opportunities for improving energy efficiency and provide the basis for a new campus energy plan. The evaluation will assess the medical center's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; lighting systems; fume hoods; and steam distribution systems; as well as its operations, maintenance and purchasing strategies. The plan will develop milestones for achieving energy goals and reducing the medical center's carbon footprint.
Leading this initiative is the medical center's new campus energy manager, Rachel Futrell, who comes to Columbia after two and half years with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). While at NYSERDA, Futrell worked on the execution of energy master plans for the Empire State Building and New York City's hospitals. She is a certified energy manager and an accredited LEED professional.
New Guidelines Help Labs Meet Energy Efficiency Standards
Energy efficiency standards are now mandated for all new lab construction and fume hoods as part of the University's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2017 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC Challenge. Building upon New York City's revision of fume hood standards, a working group from all three campuses has developed guidelines that should lead to significantly lower energy usage in labs while maintaining safety for lab users. Laboratories are heavy energy users-one fume hood consumes the equivalent of three households' worth of electricity annually. The guidelines are expected to help lower carbon emissions by about 30 percent for each new fume hood. The new guidelines can be viewed on the website of Columbia's Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
Pilot Programs Promote Energy Conservation
Three innovative pilot programs conducted by Columbia University Facilities are testing various ways of improving energy efficiency across campus using microturbines, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and energy-tracking Web interfaces called "dashboards."
Microturbines are low-emission electric power generators that also create waste heat that is used to preheat domestic hot water. Two 65-kilowatt microturbines have been installed, one at 600 W. 113th St. and a second at 542 W. 112th St. The use of these microturbines will decrease electricity demand by providing up to 50 percent of the energy needs for these University buildings. The waste heat will be used for domestic hot water and space heating, as well as for cooling through absorption chillers. If successful, the energy savings from the microturbines is expected to recoup their cost in four and a half years.
At the School of International and Public Affairs, LED lights have been installed in various locations as part of an evaluation of the lights' effectiveness. LEDs last longer and use less energy than fluorescent bulbs. Based on feedback from students, faculty and staff, University Facilities is evaluating other possible locations for replacing fluorescent bulbs.
At the School of Social Work, Facilities is testing the use of dashboards, a Web interface used to view and track a building's heat and electricity use on an hour-by-hour basis, providing data needed to design strategies for reducing consumption. This will also help the University meet the city's new standards for benchmarking building energy use. If successful, the dashboards will be expanded to include all buildings and utilities, including steam, chilled water, electricity and water.
First "Clean, Give + Go Green" Event Collects Tons of Reusable Material for Community Organizations
For two below-freezing days in December, Columbia staff standing along College Walk and at other convenient locations collected nearly five and a half tons of clothing, canned goods, toiletries, books and computer equipment during the first-ever Clean, Give + Go Green, arecycling and donation drive. The event was organized by Facilities and the Office of Environmental Stewardship, with other key partners including Housing, Environmental Health and Safety, Public Safety and Columbia University Information Technology. About 5,500 pounds of clothing were collected, with about 75 percent of the clothes going to Broadway Community Inc.'s homeless shelter on Broadway, while Public Safety delivered about two bins of coats to the New York Police Department's 26th Precinct, a drop-off point for the nonprofit New York Cares. The drive also offered paper-shredding and collected nearly two tons of paper and cardboard and three and a half tons of metal for recycling, as well as a ton of bulk items such as mattresses, microwaves and furniture. Some 200 pounds of lamp bulbs were also recycled. More than 27 bins of clothing, coats, books, shoes and miscellaneous items such as food, household goods and toys were collected for donation.
Clean, Give + Go Green brought together two Columbia recycling and donation drives, joining students and staff in a combined effort to bring awareness of sustainability on campus. Give and Go Green, run by the student Eco-Reps with University administration, gives students a chance to donate items at the end of the semester during move-out. Clean and Go Green is held every summer for staff members who are cleaning out their offices. For more information about these recycling and donation drives, visit the Office of Environmental Stewardship website.
"Green" Local Dining Available at Faculty House and Across the University
The newly renovated Faculty House, which is seeking LEED certification for its green construction and operation, now offers "green" catering menus for groups that want to serve only local, organic food. Both catered events and the Market Café use china dishes rather than disposable plates, and take-out food is served in Greenware biodegradable products. Like Faculty House, Columbia University Events Management works with clients to customize its catering menus with green and locally grown organic foods, and offers biodegradable or reusable dining ware.
Columbia University Dining spends 38 percent of its annual food budget on local items, including purchases directly from vendors at the twice-weekly Greenmarket on Broadway near campus. In addition, all seafood is purchased in accordance with sustainability guidelines, and coffee is locally roasted, fair trade and organic. A discount is offered to customers who bring a reusable mug. And all waste cooking oil at Columbia kitchens is collected by the Doe Fund, a local job-training nonprofit, to be converted into biodiesel. Read more about Columbia Dining's green initiatives on their website.
Broadway Greenmarket Expands Offerings
Hudson Valley duck, Long Island lavender and Finger Lakes grapes are just a few new local offerings now available each week throughout the winter, thanks to an expansion of the Columbia Greenmarket. Located on Broadway between 114th and 115th Streets in front of Lerner Hall, the six-year-old market "has been very successful for the whole community-those who live and work in the area as well as students," said Margaret Hoffman, the market's regional coordinator.
The success of the market has led to about 50 additional feet of space for its 18 vendors who sell their goods every Thursday and Sunday. New York City granted permission to increase market activity on Broadway, and Community Board 9 endorsed the proposal. Columbia's role as "a supportive partner" of the greenmarket has been critical to its success, Hoffman said. Later this year the Medical Center campus will welcome its own greenmarket.
GreenBorough House Inspires Campus Reality TV Show
Columbia GreenBorough, a new Special Interest Community for students who want to pursue eco-friendly living, will be the subject of a reality TV show airing this spring on the student-run CTV (Columbia University Television). The program documents green living, following the students of GreenBorough as they hold regular house meetings and organize environmental initiatives on campus, including Green Your Room, a contest in which a student on campus wins the chance to have his or her room receive a free "green" makeover.
GreenBorough, located on West 114th Street, is home to 13 undergraduates dedicated to developing creative and practical ways to reduce their impact on the environment and increase campus awareness of environmental issues. This is the first year for the GreenBorough house, which co-founder Brenden Cline (CC'11) describes as "a community committed to extending the frontiers of sustainable living on campus." Some of their sustainable initiatives include composting, using drying racks to cut energy use and decreasing shower timers to conserve water.
This semester also marks the third year of Columbia's Energy Challenge competition for students living in undergraduate residence halls. Starting Sunday, Feb. 21, students will compete to see which hall can achieve the highest reduction in energy consumption. The effort is sponsored by EcoReps, the Center for Research in Environmental Decisions, Facilities, CUIT, Housing and Environmental Stewardship.
Salvage Project Trains Local Workers, Creating "Green" Job Opportunities
Columbia hosted a pilot of a unique green salvage and job-training program this summer, in which about 40 women and men from two local programs, under the guidance of the Institution Recycling Network, carefully deconstructed interior sections of Reality House, a Columbia-owned former industrial building on West 125th Street. Approximately 40 tons of surplus materials-office and classroom furniture, electronic equipment, lighting fixtures, scrap metal and wood-was removed; 90 percent of it was donated locally to WasteMatch and internationally. Participants of Nontraditional Employment for Women, a nonprofit organization that trains women for jobs in the construction trades, with a major focus on green practices, and young adults from the School of Cooperative Technical Education, which provides job training in Upper Manhattan, took part in the pilot, learning new skills during this hands-on initiative. Some of the participants are now working with Columbia's new Small Business Development Center (SBDC)-the first to become green in New York State-to turn their experience into a business. The Reality House project provided an early example of how Columbia's long-term plan in Manhattanville can be a model of both environmental sustainability and local economic opportunity. For more about this effort, read the story in The Record.
Professor Leads Study of Energy Use in Columbia Dorms
Knowing how much electricity your friends are using may make you more likely to save energy, according to a new study by civil engineering professor John Taylor, who examined the impact of real-time energy monitoring on students living in a Columbia dorm.
For three weeks, Taylor followed the energy use of undergraduates in Watt Hall at 549 W. 113th St. Some could see their energy use on a chart and some could not. Not surprisingly, students who saw their own usage saved more energy than those who did not. But one group of students could see not only their own use, but also that of friends. "Individuals who could see the energy consumption of their friends were the most consistent in their energy conservation behavior," said Taylor. "This is very important because it shows how buildings that implement monitoring systems can both improve and more accurately predict the impact on building energy savings."
But caution is in order, too. Taylor and his colleagues are now conducting another year-long study to investigate a decline that took place in residents' energy-saving behavior at the end of the original three-week study, and to examine how specific energy conservation practices are passed among building residents. Collaborators include Patricia Culligan from the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Richard Plunz from the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and architectural engineering professor Jeffrey Siegel from the University of Texas-Austin, as well as student Gabriel Peschiera (SEAS'10) and the Office of Environmental Stewardship.
NSF Grant Supports Columbia-Led Research on Collaborative Efforts to Achieve New York City's "Green" Initiatives
The National Science Foundation, along with the U.S. Forest Service, has awarded an Urban Long-Term Research Area Exploratory (ULTRA-Ex) grant to Columbia researchers to increase the understanding of the relationship between urban residents and the natural environment, as well as directly inform the management of natural resources in New York City. The researchers hope their project will facilitate further involvement in local environmental stewardship by explaining the effects of re-greening initiatives and municipally led sustainability campaigns such as MillionTreesNYC.
The principle investigator of this ULTRA-Ex grant-funded project is Dana R. Fisher, associate professor of sociology, and the co-principal investigator is Christopher Small, senior research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Outside participants contributing to the project include the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, the New School, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Yale. For more information, please contact Dana Fisher at email@example.com. For more information, please visit the website of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, which administers the grant.
Columbia Scientists Devise Strategy for New York City's Resilience to Climate Change Impacts
Climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts are both important elements in PlaNYC, New York City's long-term sustainability plan, established in 2007 by Mayor Bloomberg. To advance the city's adaptation goals, the mayor convened experts from both academia and industry to form the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) in 2008, co-chaired by Cynthia Rosenzweig of Columbia's Center for Climate Systems Research and head of the Climate Impacts Group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, both part of the Earth Institute. In January, the NPCC released a strategy, "Climate Change Adaptation in New York City: Building a Risk Management Response," devised by 15 experts, including eight from the Earth Institute. Their findings and proposed blueprint for policymakers and stakeholders have been published in the journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. To learn more, read the Columbianews article about the NPCC report.
Columbia Research Supports Federally Funded "Smart Grid" Energy Project
In November, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded ConEdison $45 million for its Secure Interoperable Open Smart Grid Demonstration Project as part of the federal government's efforts to upgrade the quality of the nation's electrical infrastructure. Columbia researchers from the Center for Computational Learning Systems will work with Con Edison and others to demonstrate advanced Smart Grid technologies that will help build a smarter, more efficient and more resilient national electric grid. To learn more about the project, read the Columbia news article.
How You Can Help: Limit Your Energy Use This Winter
With a few more weeks of chilly weather still ahead, here's a reminder of a few simple things we can all do to help cut greenhouse gas emissions before leaving our living spaces or offices each day, especially before weekends:
- Close and lock all windows and doors, and close blinds and curtains. Be sure to close all windows, including those that are in spaces not normally occupied. It is in these "forgotten" rooms that, in addition to wasting energy, an open window can result in a frozen or split pipe.
- Turn off lights in offices or any shared areas such as conference rooms, break rooms, restrooms and classrooms.
- Leave all radiator valves and fan coils turned on to ensure adequate heating and to avoid freeze damage.Fan coils should be set to the slowest speed setting.
- Clear clothing or furniture away from heaters to avoid inadequate heating that may cause freeze-ups and damage.
- Shut down and unplug appliances such as computers, printers, faxes, copiers, space heaters and coffeemakers.
- Make sure all faucets are off.
- Close fume hoods when not in use and shut down nonessential lab equipment.
- Report problems such as leaks, heating/cooling issues or opened windows or doors that cannot be closed to the Facilities Services Center at (212) 854-2222 on the Morningside Heights campus. On the CUMC campus, call (212) 305-HELP (3457). Similar problems on the Lamont-Doherty campus can be called in to Building and Grounds at (845) 365-8600.
These simple energy saving steps will not only reduce the University's utility costs, they will also help us reduce our carbon footprint.
Don't Forget to Share Your News and Ideas
Expand your own efforts to help Columbia become more sustainable. Please e-mail Nilda Mesa, assistant vice president of Environmental Stewardship, with your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And share news updates about what you and your office are doing to support a sustainable Columbia to Clare Oh in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at email@example.com.
For more information about sustainability research at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science included in this newsletter, contact Margaret Kelly, director of internal communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.