The Visual and Performing Arts Center on the Westside Campus achieved LEED Silver certification in 2014
By: Ryan Yursha
In Pinney Hall, the world is your oyster: the rooms are bigger, you can walk through the lobby with a case of beer (provided both you and your roommates are of age) without fear of reprisal, and you can leave the door that leads to your patio wide open without worrying about wasting resources or money on the heat or air conditioning that you probably forgot to turn off.
For the latter, you can thank Luigi Marcone, Chief Facilities Officer and Associate Vice President for Campus Planning at Western Connecticut State University, who, in 2009, spearheaded efforts to curb the consumption of and spending on energy in the residence hall.
“Those patio doors have been the bane of my existence since that building opened in 2001,” said Marcone, adding “what ends up happening is no matter whether I’m spending a lot of money on heat or air conditioning, those patio doors are always open.”
The solution, said Marcone, was to use “building automation technology and sensors on those patio doors where, if the patio doors are open, heating or air conditioning is not working in the main part of that apartment.”
According to Marcone, the Pinney Hall renovations, among other energy conservation initiatives on campus, have allowed the University to “sustain our energy consumption even though the campus has been growing, technology in the buildings keeps increasing, and every building is now air conditioned.”
For his efforts, WCSU has received the 2005 Demand-Response Program Achievement Award from ISO New England, the 2007 Top Energy Project Award from the Association of Energy Engineers, and the 2009 Green Award from Morris Media.
If you ask Marcone, though, the goal isn’t just sustainability—it’s renewability. And during the mid-aughts, WCSU was in the early stages of the journey towards that goal.
In 2007, former University President Dr. James W. Schmotter signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a pledge to address global warming with the ultimate goal of reaching climate neutrality on campus. But, according to Marcone, “what we found over time was that the University was spending many, many dollars a year on resources, maintaining inventories, and documentation, but we weren’t doing any real sustainability work.”
Under the leadership of Dr. Schmotter, WCSU exited the agreement in 2010, allowing the University to “take all of those resources that we were spending to maintain compliance with ACUPCC and that climate commitment and actually focus it on doing real work on campus,” said Marcone. “We’re actually making progress, as opposed to tracking data that really was not very valuable.”
But with the exception of the solar array on the Westside Campus, which was installed last year and, according to Marcone, supplies Grasso Hall with all of its electricity and allows the University to spend approximately half of what it otherwise would on utilities for the residence hall, most of this progress isn’t visible.
A fuel cell installed on the Midtown Campus in 2007, for example, “provides almost 100 percent of the electrical capacity for the science building, and we also get free heat out of that piece of equipment.”
And Marcone and his teams in Facilities and Campus Planning are always doing more.
In 2016, the University received a grant from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The grant funded both the installation of electric car chargers on campus allowed Facilities to purchase four electric vehicles. Now, said Marcone, “instead of our facilities folks driving around in pick-up trucks all the time, they’re driving around in electric vehicles that are zero-fuel and zero-emission.”
The University is also moving away from heating its buildings with fuel oil and towards the campus-wide use of natural gas, which, according to Marcone, is “a much cleaner product, a much more sustainable product, and we’re not dependent on the whims of the oil market.”
Two years ago, in 2017, Marcone said, “we ran natural gas up to the Westside Campus,” and, as a result, the University is now “fuel-oil independent at the Westside Campus.”
Most recently, the lighting in University Hall underwent extensive renovations which Marcone said should lead to “a 25-27 percent reduction in the building’s electrical usage,” and next year, “we’re looking at additional fuel cells on the Westside Campus.”
Whether or not you choose to participate in, or even notice, the efforts to create a sustainable and, eventually, renewable campus at WCSU, Marcone and the Facilities and Campus Planning teams are working tirelessly to make that dream a reality.