The lights will soon dim in a campus building near you.
That’s what students working on the Keuka College CSI (Campus Sustainability Initiative) project are hoping. As members of Keuka’s Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) team, those working on the environmentally friendly project created a “green” project recommending motion-sensor lighting technology be used more places on campus, such as in classrooms vacated near the end of the day, dorm hallways and other locales.
SIFE CSI Project Manager Katelin Maxson submitted a proposal in early September to the national SIFE organization, hoping to be chosen one of 15 elite teams across the Northeast to qualify for a grant award through SIFE’s sponsor, o.b® a brand of Johnson and Johnson. In keeping with the sponsor’s marketing theme, “women for less waste,” adding motion-sensor lighting to select classrooms and hallways would reduce energy usage and waste, according to SIFE team president Nick Simpson. The team learned Dec. 1 they had won a re-grant award.
“I’m on campus late most nights,” said Maxson,, a senior accounting major from Whitney Point. “I go by Hegeman [Hall] and see almost every classroom lit up with computer screens and lights on at 9 p.m., but no one’s been in those classrooms for several hours.”
Simpson called the $1,500 award “seed money” for the next phase of competition, when the SIFE team can present data showing what kind of impact the green initiatives had on the campus. Maxson explained that the CSI team will receive an initial $1,250 to launch the project, with the remaining $250 to come when the tracking data – actual net savings shown on utility bills – is submitted to the national SIFE organization, likely in April. Prizes earned at the next level of competition could garner the team an additional $1,000 – $2,500.
While safety benefits may play some part, the CSI team is focused on energy savings, said Simpson, who cited multiple areas that could be served with motion-sensor lights. He pointed out that in addition to empty classrooms with lights left on, “dorm hallways can be fully lit at 3 a.m. as opposed to a dim light that activates into a brighter light when someone steps into the hallways.”
The same concept could work in a restroom, where lights could be permanently off until someone walks in, Simpson said.
“Part of our proposal was to put signs up on all the [classroom] doors of the class schedule held there and we’re hoping as a whole, the school community would form new habits, turn lights off when a room’s not in use, and so on,” Maxson added.
Maxson met initially with Dennis Hoins, director of facilities, to discuss the proposal submission and the two met again this past week to determine how best to utilize the funds to garner measurable data for the next phase of competition.
According to Hoins, many of the campus buildings share utility meters, which means that extracting accurate data to measure a hoped-for reduction in energy usage and billing for the limited number of square feet that could be served with $1,250 worth of sensor equipment would prove nearly impossible.
Instead, Hoins recommended using the 5,300- square foot facilities plant building, on Assembly Avenue, as the testing grounds for the motion sensor project. That building is on its own separate meter, has no motion sensor lighting to begin with and is small enough that the award could likely cover new sensor equipment throughout all of it, he said. It has four offices, a conference room, copy room, entrance room, and lounge.
“I know I always go in the lounge and turn the lights off,” Hoins said, adding “we’ll do the installation in-house, so we could do more fixtures with those savings. That one building can be the guinea pig.”
Maxson was enthused at the prospect, and added that Keuka’s facilities staff have been one of the biggest unsung heroes actively working to reduce the environmental energy footprint across the campus.
“They’ve updated buildings to make heating and cooling more green, and this past year, they didn’t use any pesticides on campus,” Maxson explained, adding Hoins told her there was some replacement of outdoor “globe” lighting also under way.
The sustainability group, comprised of 11 SIFE team members in addition to Maxson, has been working through some suggested check lists to uncover other areas where the campus may be “green lacking,” Maxson said.
Hoins indicated he believes the places with the worst energy usage records could be the library and the Geiser (in Dahlstrom Student Center).
“At 5 in the morning, all the lights are on [in both of them],” Hoins explained.
According to Maxson, measuring the data on what energy savings have been achieved at the facilities building and preparing the follow-up study information to submit to SIFE by April will likely consume the remainder of the year for the CSI team.
“This is our biggest project, and we’re hoping future SIFE projects will be more respected at the school, she said. “We want to reduce [energy] consumption and raise awareness.”