by Whitney Weeks
Good fiscal sense is leading to the greening of Vanderbilt.
In the past five years, it has become increasingly clear that reducing energy consumption is an easy, cost-effective way to save money while benefiting the environment.
In addition to maintaining a careful balance between energy sources and the introduction of green building techniques to campus, a number of new programs under way at Vanderbilt are energy efficient and financially sound.
Vanderbilt’s partnership with Nashville’s Metro Transit Authority allows employees to swipe their identification cards on MTA buses and have fares to and from work charged to the university. The program frees up approximately 275 parking spaces and results in decreased automobile emissions.
In certain Vanderbilt Medical Center parking garages where access control is present, a new carpooling program called FlexPool allows two or more employees to share a ride without making a permanent commitment to each other or to the program. The plan – which reduces participants’ parking rates between 25 and 75 percent – is expected to have several hundred takers, cutting down on the number of vehicles with Vanderbilt as their destination and ultimately reducing the need for new parking spaces to be built on campus.
Two years ago, Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Plant Services identified a number of areas where energy consumption could be reduced. The results included an upgrade to heating and air conditioning controls in several buildings and a substantial lighting upgrade that affected nearly every building on the Medical Center campus.
“Most of these changes were financially driven,” said Ken Browning, director of Plant Services at Vanderbilt Medical Center. “We’re a business that is self-supporting and we want to reduce operating costs. As we need to replace equipment that is worn out, it makes sense to use capital dollars to take advantage of some of the new, more energy-efficient technologies that are out there.”
Browning said people notice and are pleased by the changes, which include new plumbing products in the majority of public restrooms.
“We replaced traditional toilets and urinals with low-volume-flush china, installed electronic flushing devices, and also installed hands-free faucets,” Browning said. “Our infection control nurses really like the hands-free aspect, and environmentally, the technology reduces the amount of water used.”
Plumbing changes are taking place in other buildings around campus. Currently, the occupants of the Bryan Building, which houses Campus Planning and Construction as well as Plant Operations, are testing low flush toilets and waterless urinals.
Energy efficient design is a trend at Vanderbilt.
“In four buildings – MRB III, soon-to-open Buttrick Hall, the Student Life Center and Engineering – interior atriums were incorporated into the design or redesign of the buildings,” said Judson Newbern, associate vice chancellor for campus planning and construction. “These atriums allow natural light to reach the interior of the buildings, offsetting the need for artificial lighting and reducing electrical demand.”
In the recently remodeled Medical Center North, occupancy sensors in the public corridors and restrooms turn off lights when no one is in the area.
The greening of Vanderbilt is poised to continue, buoyed by a number of student organizations concerned with the environment and recycling efforts in most campus and Medical Center buildings. The Energy Conservation Committee, a diverse group of university administrators, keeps a constant watch for ways in which money-saving conservation methods might be implemented.