CHAPMAN STUDENTS HAVE WEEKLY MEETINGS TO DISCUSS THEIR PLANS FOR THE SOLAR DECATHLON.
PHOTO CREDITS: TEAM OC
Story by Jackie Cohen
Did you know that by working out in the gym at Henley Basement, you are actually producing energy that is being fed back to the building’s electric grid?
Projects such as that one are being used to make Chapman’s campus more sustainable.
“These are all little things, but I think in the greater scheme, they can make a difference,” said Sara Wanous, sophomore economics and environmental science major.
Students often criticize Chapman for not being sustainable, and Chapman reacted by implementing certain changes to become more sustainable.
Wanous doesn’t believe that Chapman is doing enough. She commented that Chapman is excessively watering the lawns and air conditioning buildings.
In order to change that image, Chapman has put together a sustainability committee of professors.
Since 2011, Chapman has made an effort to become more sustainable starting with hiring a sustainability manager and in 2013 adding a campus sustainability audit completed annually by the environmental science and policy capstone course.
“Sustainability at Chapman is important because it focuses on the interconnectedness of our operations with the students we serve, the faculty and staff who work here, and the community in which we live,” said Mackenzie Crigger, the sustainability manager at Chapman.
“By always seeking to improve the operations of the university and reduce our resource consumption we are acting as good stewards and protecting the health and environment of future generations,” said Crigger.
According to the sustainability audit from spring of 2014, Chapman should raise the temperature in the academic buildings by a couple degrees when it is hot to reduce energy and water usage. They also recommended that Chapman change its manual sprinkler system to an automated weather-based system.
Other suggestions include planting native California plants, banning sales of water bottles on campus, adding timers to the residence hall showers, and covering the Zee Allred Aquatics Pools at night during the fall and winter, unless the temperature is above 79 degrees to keep it warm.
Based on the information from the sustainability audits, Chapman has been implementing changes to become more sustainable.
“We have done a lot of work in lighting upgrades, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), and retro-commissioning projects to increase energy efficiency,” Crigger said.
According to Crigger, Chapman is currently working on the HVAC in the residence halls to make them more efficient and prevent it from running when the dorms are unoccupied.
They have also added recirculation pumps in the dorms’ water heating system, which has substantially reduced gas usage. The shower heads in the dorms are being retrofitted to use less water, and the toilets are being systematically replaced with models that use less water. More native plants and weather-based irrigation systems have been added to the residence life area.
“We hope to be able to roll that out on to main campus as well,” Crigger said.
Chapman has also added electric vehicle charging stations, switched all cleaning products to be chemical free, and started a bike voucher program to encourage students to cycle instead of driving, according to Crigger.
In the process of working on larger projects, Chapman worked with Southern California Edison for three years on a pilot program that would allow private universities with as much funding for retro-commissioning, demand response, and retro-fitting projects as state schools and became the first private university to go through this program.
“This will open the doors for not only other similar projects at Chapman to receive more rebate money, but also paves the way for many other schools to participate and increase their sustainability programs and projects,” Crigger said.
While Chapman has already implemented many changes to be more sustainable, there is always room for improvement. According to Crigger, they are always looking at ways to make the university more sustainable.
“It is important to be sustainable because I believe that there is a balance to life and Earth, and human beings have surpassed that balance,” said Jane Choi, a junior business administration and accounting major and Solar Decathlon participant.
Another environmental project on campus is the Solar Decathlon. Chapman is a part of the Orange County Team and is working along with University of California, Irvine, Irvine Valley College, and Saddleback College to build a net zero house, meaning that the amount of energy used is equivalent to the amount of energy produced by the house. Their house will be competing in an international competition hosted by the Department of Energy.
“The solar decathlon is showing people that the technology to live net zero lives is not something of the future, it is something that is here and something that is accessible even to college students building a home like this, so I think that is what is really incredible about it,” Wanous said.
The participants are separated into work groups and meet on a weekly basis, often spending hours working on the project.The work is divided between the groups, amongst these are the water group and the fundraising and marketing group.
“We’ve just finished up our design phase and are in the beginning of preparation for construction,” Yoo said. “We are still undergoing the process to ensure that all the designs and mechanisms for the house are going to be successful as well as continuing fundraising efforts to help build this house.”
The competition is taking place from October 10 to October 18.
“I think it is really important to work on it because it shows just how applicable this technology is and how we can all change our lifestyle to be even more sustainable,” Wanous said.
Besides the Solar Decathlon, Chapman University has an on-campus club called Mission Environment which meets on a weekly basis. The club’s goal is to educate students and implement more sustainable practices.
“I believe a better way to view sustainability is through consciousness,” said Clayton Heard, a junior environmental science major and the president of Mission Environment.
Chapman’s changes towards being more sustainable have already given it various awards. Chapman earned the 2014 award for most sustainable school by the United States Green Building Council’s chapter in Orange County. In February 2015, Chapman— along with 87 other undergraduate institutions— was recognized by myActions for Green and Compassionate Student Activity. Chapman’s Cypress Street Schoolhouse received a Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) gold rating from the United States Green Building Council.
With growing focus on sustainability, Chapman is taking its part in creating a greener future for Orange County.