Colleges go green by retrofitting older buildings with energy efficient technology

November 29, 2012

Universities are often the birthplace of new ideas and invention. Young people are spurred on with hopes, dreams and new ways of thinking to develop the foundations for future technology innovations. The Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, recently was recently awarded LEED Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for its renovated Historical Federal Building.

"It’s been said that 'the greenest building is one you don’t have to build,' which is something we understood we had going for us from the beginning," Ferris president David Eisler said of the 1911 Beaux Arts-style building listed on the National Register of Historic buildings. "There is an embodied energy that goes with the restoration and adaptive reuse of an historic building such as this, and so we always knew we wanted to tap into that and bring this beautiful old gem in the heart of Grand Rapids back to life in the most sustainable way possible."

This is just one example of a higher education institution dedicating itself to retrofitting pre-existing structures with energy-efficient solutions. Other agencies have also dedicated themselves toward other sustainable efforts.

The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) was established by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as an Energy-Regional Innovation Cluster. By partnering with other local agencies, the organization hopes to promote the integration of green energy technology into commercial building design. Located in Philadelphia, this agency and higher education institutions in the region are both working to inspire individuals to consider how green energy building design can positively impact property owners fiscally and environmentally.

Educational facilities are ideal places for sustainability improvements because they can convince an entire new generation of the strength of smart building design. In addition, college structures often use considerable energy to support themselves. Therefore, implementing sustainable and energy efficient technology will reduce a school's utility bills by a significant amount.

"Buildings are a prime example of how human systems integrate with natural systems," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. "The Historic Federal Building project efficiently uses our natural resources and makes an immediate, positive impact on our planet, which will tremendously benefit future generations to come."