According to the Alliance to Save Energy, current energy use in buildings comprises 42 percent of all energy use in the US. This is more than industrial or even transportation usage. Several sustainable aspects can be implemented in order to lower this staggering number. The University of Rochester has taken the initiative to reduce its energy consumption in dorms by qualifying both Anderson and Wilder Towers as Energy Star certified buildings.
Energy Star is a governmentally supported program that helps individuals and businesses to protect the environment through energy efficiency. In addition to rating the energy efficiency of products, appliances, and homes, Energy Star helps corporations and institutions to construct and recognize more environmentally conscious buildings by setting certain standards and recognizing buildings that meet them. Using a system called Energy Star Performance Manager, buildings’ energy use statistics are monitored over the course of a year, and the results are sent to Energy Star for review. In order to qualify as Energy Star certified, the building must receive a ranking of 75 out of 100 or higher.
Both Anderson and Wilder Towers were evaluated in 2011 and received excellent rankings. Anderson Tower qualified with a ranking of 82. This indicates that the building operates more efficiently than 82% of all similar buildings nationwide. Wilder Tower qualified at an ever higher ranking of 87. A total of only 76 dorms have earned Energy Star awards in the US and the national average is currently 50, making the Towers’ awards even more impressive and commendable.
Numerous factors contribute to how each building is ranked, including heat and insulation, water, and electricity use. Each floor is most commonly separated into suites of 6 students, complete with a shared kitchen and lounge. Sharing these spaces that typically consume a high amount of energy helps to reduce energy use.
Much of the Towers’ strong performance in their awards comes from energy-efficient hot water heating from Co-Generation. The Towers converted from steam heat to hot water in 2005 as part of the Co-Generation project. Hot water distribution is more efficient than steam because there are much less distribution losses in the piping. It also increases efficiency in producing the hot water due to the newer equipment.
Additional strategies for reducing energy consumption include turning off heating equipment when outdoor temperature rises and setting back building temperatures regularly. The equipment is turned off every winter and summer break. Hot water heating temperatures are also reset when outdoor conditions are very warm, and are then again raised when weather conditions become colder.
Student efforts in reducing energy consumption are largely to thank in receiving this award. Turning off lights and equipment when not in use, using stairs rather than elevators, using compact fluorescent light bulbs in lamps, and keeping windows closed during the winter (and open during warm weather for natural ventilation) are all small efforts that when combined make a huge impact in saving energy. UR Unplugged, a friendly competition between dormitories to reduce energy consumption on campus, also helps to diminish energy consumption in dorms, and in turn aids buildings in qualifying for Energy Star awards.
A new residential building for upperclassmen, which will be located near Anderson and Wilder Towers, will aim to meet similar energy efficiency standards. The building will strive to meet LEED gold certification standards to reduce negative environmental impacts and improve energy performance, which is a first for the River Campus.