Sustainability is a top priority at Alfred State College. That’s why over the past eight years, the school has taken a number of ecofriendly steps to reduce its environmental footprint, while increasing energy efficiency on campus.
According to Glenn Brubaker, senior director of Facilities Services, one of the first initiatives the college took was upgrading the exterior parking lot and loop road lighting to LED fixtures. Brubaker estimates that around 300 outdoor fixtures were changed into lower-wattage LED fixtures, resulting in about an $18,000-a-year savings in energy consumption.
“Also, if we include the labor savings gained from having our electricians now focusing on other initiatives rather than changing bulbs and ballasts and the HID lighting, that savings compounds with the labor savings that wasn’t calculated into that $18,000,” he said.
Brubaker noted that the college, through its Energy Master Plan, is also currently in the process of replacing exterior building lights with LED fixtures.
Also campus-wide, Alfred State has installed lighting occupancy sensors and programmable lighting control panels to reduce electrical energy consumption in buildings. High-efficiency, variable-frequency drives (VFDs) are being installed on air handlers to improve energy efficiency through managing exhaust air from the buildings. VFDs are also being installed on pumping systems to adjust flows, which results in optimum efficiency in mechanical piping systems.
“The advent of VFDs has really given us the ability to control mechanical equipment at the optimum level,” Brubaker said. “If I only need a fan running at 50 percent speed, I now have the ability to do that. I can move the air I want and only consume the energy I need vs. having the fan on full-speed.”
Also in each building on campus, Alfred State has already or is currently installing smart utility sub-metering systems to measure, and thereby reduce, consumption of gas, water, and electricity.
“Those meters are IT-compatible, so the meter readings will automatically be sent to our BMS (Building Management System) so we can capture that data,” said Brubaker, who added that this technology replaces having to manually take meter readings, thereby reducing labor costs and eliminating an element of human error.
Also, during the spring semester, the college began the process of phasing in reusable bags to replace single-use plastic bags at dining locations across campus. This effort was led by student Peter York, a construction management major from Akron.
In May, Alfred State shut down its heating plant, which had heated buildings on the Alfred campus since the mid-1960s, in place of new energy-efficient satellite boilers that have been installed in each building. Additionally, bottle-filling stations have been incorporated at drinking fountains in a number of buildings on campus to reduce the amount of water bottles being used.
As a result of the energy-saving initiatives that the college has implemented over the past several years, Brubaker said, Alfred State had seen a 19 percent savings in utility costs as of 2016. This puts the college on pace to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 88, which requires state facilities to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, from a baseline year of 2010.
Looking ahead to the future, Brubaker said the college is planning on getting students engaged in sustainability efforts through water conservation challenges in residence halls. Also, in the near future, Alfred State will be undergoing a retrocommissioning phase to ensure that the equipment within the buildings is running to its fullest potential. According to a study on retrocommissioning, Brubaker said, this process typically results in an energy savings of $80,000 annually.
“Many times, new buildings are constructed and mechanical equipment is initially commissioned. Then, over the course of years, people change settings or there could be dampers that aren’t operating appropriately,” he said. “Retrocommissioning is the process of checking all systems and programmed settings, and making sure that all mechanical systems are operating as designed. The process includes repairing things that aren’t functioning at all, or adjusting settings to make sure that everything is operating at its optimum level.”
From energy-saving measures, to water-bottle filling stations, to reusable bags, Alfred State, Brubaker said, is “on the cutting edge of incorporating as many aspects of sustainability that are applicable to a campus of our size.”
“We are continually looking for ways to reduce energy costs and our environmental footprint, while simultaneously implementing new, more sustainable and efficient methods for meeting the needs of our students and our campus,” he said. “Without question, sustainability is a priority at Alfred State.”