It's not easy being green.
Nevertheless, the University is designing more "green," environmentally conscious buildings.
The new ellipse building, soon to be named the Emma B. Bloomberg Hall, is a prime example. The building boasts bamboo floors, trash chutes for recycling, an exhaust heat-recovery system, equipment with various speed motors to conserve power and a light-colored roof to reflect heat. It also has triple-glazed windows to trap heat in the winter and exterior shading to block heat in the summer. The ellipse's air conditioning system saves energy by running chilled water through its pipes, instead of using fans.
The ellipse's green design would likely qualify for a "silver" rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, University Architect Jon Hlafter GS '63 said.
The Council's rating system, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), awards points to various design elements. Certification ranges from "certified" to "platinum." However, the University did not seek LEED certification.
"We don't see a specific benefit to getting certified," Hlafter said.
Hlafter said the LEED certification was not designed for university campuses. It wouldn't take into account the University's already low utility costs, such as the campus cogeneration plant that regulates University temperatures by capturing excess heat.
Hlafter also explained that it costs extra money to register and certify a building with LEED.
According to the LEED website, it would cost over $3,500 to register and certify the 95,000 sq. ft. ellipse building.
However, Hlafter said the registration and certification fees are just a fraction of the total price tag for certification. He explained that there are also consulting costs throughout the process.
"Colleagues at other universities have told me that certification costs, including the required monitoring, are generally in the low six figures, depending on the size of the project," Hlafter said in an email.
Hlafter explained that, while the University has not applied for certification, it asks all architects and engineers to design projects so that they are certifiable.
This is the approach the University is also taking with Whitman College and the new science library.
Cathy Kunkel '06, president of Greening Princeton, said the University is moving in the right direction. Students from Greening Princeton often meet with University officials to discuss these issues.
"They're very receptive to us and we're very receptive to them," Kunkel said.
Kunkel understands why the University does not want to formally join the LEED program, but she would still like the University to officially adopt LEED standards into its own building design codes.
According to Hlafter, there are additional financial considerations. He estimated that it costs roughly 10 percent more to build to meet LEED's "silver" rating.
"The University is willing to spend more in the first cost of a building, as long as there is a payback within a reasonable amount of time," Hlafter said.
This payback should come in the form of saved money within the next 15 to 20 years. For example, the University chose not to repipe heat lost from showers because engineers calculated a payback period of 150 years.
Similar reasoning was used in the decision against utilizing "gray water," or channeling the dormitory's used water into the irrigation system.
However, Julia Ioffe '05, a dormitory adviser in the ellipse, in an email questioned some of the decisions that did make it into the dorm's final design.
While Ioffe acknowledged that bamboo flooring might save trees, she said the surface scratches easily and doesn't seem practical for dorm life. She predicts the University might have to spend extra money for repairs in just a few years.
Ioffe also argued that the ellipse's system of waste management might actually discourage recycling.
"It always seemed like getting people just to put their recyclables in a separate container was a struggle in the dorms where there was trash collection," Ioffe said.
Now the task of sorting and disposing of trash and recyclables falls to the student, she explained, and sometimes the nearest trash chute is outside.
"As the weather gets colder and the semester's work pace speeds up and students are more and more pressed for time, I am guessing that the idea of recycling chutes will just devolve into more waste without any recycling whatsoever," Ioffe said.
Even with all of the University's efforts to go green, perhaps a building can only be as green as the students who live in it.
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