Operations and Sustainability
Operations involves all aspects of day to day activities that impact the learning and living environment of Rensselaer students, faculty, and staff. Specific areas include building maintenance and cleaning, upkeep of lawn and garden areas, operation of campus vehicles, operation of building mechanical and electrical systems, use of energy and water, dining services, waste disposal, and all construction operations.
RPI has committed to LEED certifications for all new campus building construction. EMPAC is LEED certified and the East Campus Athletic Village is planned to be LEED silver certified. The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies building is extremely energy efficient with a naturally ventilated atrium, heat recovery on the lab ventilation air, and many other systems. Energy savings measures also include many innovative technologies like variable speed motor controls, lighting controls, and building management computer systems.
Renovations are done to further the mission of Rensselaer in accordance with The Rensselaer Plan. However, during the routine maintenance of campus facilities, changes are being made to increase efficiency, such as retrofitting to lighting and retro-commissioning of HVAC systems. Additionally, projects in distributed energy generation and solar water heating are being explored in new and existing facilities.
Environmental Services uses Green Seal certified cleaning products for all situations where practical, except for bathroom disinfectant, glass cleaner, and floor finish.
Campus Planning and Facilities Design spearheads the LEED certification of new construction, while Physical Facilities manages the smaller retrofitting and renovation projects, and Environmental Services oversees the cleaning guidelines.
40% of produce is purchased locally. All of the milk used comes from Binghamton, NY. Sodexho fully supports the Terra Café, a student-run local and organic once-a-week sit-down dining experience.
Currently, the average daily food waste about 600 lbs. A composting project is in the research and development stage. Sodexho is planning on composting all food waste. There has also been discussion regarding ways in which students can reduce their own food waste. Ideas include the elimination of trays and smaller portions.
Organic foods comprise 1% of all food, although Sodexho plans to increase this percentage. Terra Café recently resumed growing its own salad greens in an on-campus greenhouse.
Sodexho eliminated all food products containing trans-fat in 2006.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Rensselaer has taken steps to measure the campus carbon footprint and has been tracking our carbon emissions now for two years. Emissions are measured in 3 categories as defined by Clean Air Cool Planets, an organization that has standardized the measurements of carbon emissions.
Rensselaer’s total carbon emissions for FY 2009 are 54,978 metric tons. Of this total, 92% come from the burning of fossil fuels on campus for heating (scope 1) and the purchase of electricity (scope 2).
Electricity use on the Rensselaer Campus has increased by 33% over the past 8 years due to campus growth.
The new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies came on line in fiscal year 2005, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center came on line during fiscal year 2008, and the East Campus Athletic Village was opened in fiscal year 2010.
Prices have stabilized over the past several years since the drastic increase in 2005 resulting from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Prices are expected to remain stable in the near future, unless impacted by a major hurricane or world event.
Natural gas use increased 18% from fiscal year 2002 to 2010 due to the addition of new buildings on campus. The increase in natural gas usage was less than electricity due to the implementation of several heating and ventilation efficiency projects across the campus.
The cost of natural gas has stabilized over the past several years after the drastic increase in 2005 and 2006 resulting from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
During the summer of 2009, Rensselaer installed 50 KW of photovoltaic arrays on the east campus. On the Houston Field House there is a 46 KW array, and on the roof of the East Campus Athletic village there are two 2 KW photovoltaic arrays, one that is fixed and one that tracks the sun.
Integrated pest management is implemented on campus and a working manual has been created. Pesticides are rarely used due to the integrated pest management system. Pesticides are only used for athletic fields and high priority areas when infested with insects or a disease.
From 2002-2007, waste generation has remained fairly constant, with slight variations.
Environmental and Site Services reports that the overall campus recycling rate is between 25-35%, meaning that 25-35% of campus waste is recycled.
The chart (right) provides a sample representation of what is found in campus dumpsters. This data was collected by students by means of “dumpster dives.” The garbage in dumpsters is taken out and separated into the various categories, and weighed separately. The percentages are then calculated from the total weight of garbage in the dumpster. As the figure displays, approximately 75% of what is in the dumpster could be recycled or composted, implying that much could be done to reduce the amount of recyclable and/or compostable material in the garbage.
In the past Rensselaer has given old computers to families who need them. Rensselaer also currently recycles campus computers and electronics with a local contractor, ELOT.
Students from Ecologic are currently working on creating an odd items recycling center in the student union. This recycling center intends to provide a means for students to recycle CFLs, batteries, ink cartridges, sneakers, eye-glasses, and E-waste. There is also the possible expansion for a place to collect reusable items year-round.
The Office of Parking and Transportation regulates parking areas and regulations on campus, administers the Redhawk shuttle service, and negotiates a contract with CDTA for RPI students to ride public transportation freely around the Capital District. The Redhawk shuttle route is also changed periodically to meet changing student demand and additional resident areas. While it originally began as a shuttle for commuters to easily reach main campus from the upper East Campus lots, it now serves as a main conduit of student traffic to and from campus and the East Campus area.
Over the past five years, overall water use has remained fairly steady at about 120,000,000 gallons/year. Since significant square footage has been added to the campus, the water use per square foot is dropping.
Material adapted from the Student Sustainability Task Force (SSTF) “Sustainability at Rensselaer” 2009 Report.