College of the Canyons employs a wide variety of energy-saving and environmentally friendly practices in its campus operations, maintenance and construction
Even before concepts such as sustainable development, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and ‘green building’ became popular, College of the Canyons had already emerged as an energy-efficient and environmentally responsible community college.
Though the college utilizes a number of energy- and water-saving techniques, a wide-scale campus recycling program and environmentally conscious building strategies including the use of more natural light, recycled building materials and natural landscaping the most significant environmental undertaking has been the construction of water-distributing and energy-cogenerating central plants.
Housing chillers, boilers and cooling towers in a centralized location, each of the college¹s three central plants serves as a single source of both hot and chilled water, which is used to heat and cool air and produce a potable water supply for multiple buildings on campus.
The use of central plants differs significantly from the common practice of constructing a new building that provides sufficient heating, cooling and hot water to only that building.
“That is a tremendous waste of natural resources, as the efficiency of a per-building approach is much less than a single, larger facility that can serve several buildings at one time,” said Jim Schrage, dean of facilities at the college. “When a campus becomes a conglomeration of 30 or 40 buildings encompassing 600,000 to 700,000 square feet, the combined inefficiencies and waste of separate systems is enormous. But this has never been the case at College of the Canyons.”
Though the college originally began with a central plant housed on the roof of Bonelli Hall Superintendent-President Dr. Dianne Van Hook began applying for funds to construct a more significant central plant as the campus started to expand in the early 1990s.
Although the state originally opposed the project because it saw no viable benefit, Van Hook eventually secured funding for the college’s central plant project, which was the first of its kind in the California community college system.
With the college's continued growth came a remodeling of the original Bonelli Hall central plant, the construction and subsequent remodeling and expansion of the south campus central plant near Mentry Hall, and the addition of a third such facility on the north side of the campus.
Combined, the central plants serve all of the college’s current buildings and facilities and boast sufficient reserve capacity for the eventual buildout of the campus.
In addition, both the north and south central plants have been equipped with cogeneration capabilities, allowing the college to produce its own electrical power via natural gas-fired generators. Waste heat from their exhaust produce both hot and cold water for normal central plant functions.
“This allows us to dramatically cut our power costs,” Schrage said.
“We’re not only saving large amounts of natural resources in our production, we’re also reducing the demand on the public energy grid by saving the loss of resources in the manufacture of power previously needed for our campus.”
The projects have been successful enough for the college to receive electric and gas utility rebates in the neighborhood of $1 million, Schrage said. The rebates have come via an energy-saving program initiated by the California community college system, which was recently recognized by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
“College of the Canyons is very proud to be one of the largest beneficiaries of the statewide program, and to be recognized where it counts in the pocketbook by Southern California Gas and Southern California Edison for our success in creating projects that will save and continue to save our natural resources and environment,” Schrage said.
In addition to the use of central plants, the college has adopted a policy of using as many recycled construction materials as possible, including 100 percent recycled carpet and rubber flooring, drywall with recycled paper backing, plywood made from recycled paper and mill waste chips, and concrete and paving materials composed of recycled concrete, asphalt and rock.
As another major component of its eco-friendly campus-expansion plans, the college has sought to reduce external environmental effects on many new buildings by positioning them in the correct orientation of the sun’s path.
“Whenever possible we have put our largest glass window fronts facing east or north, which allows us the full benefit of natural lighting without the potential overload of the late afternoon sun,” Schrage said, pointing to the design of Hasley Hall, the Library and Performing Arts Center as examples.
With the use of more natural light has also come the installation of motion-sensor lights in every room on campus, the retrofitting of all campus lights with energy-saving bulbs and electrical fixtures, and a computer-controlled lighting system that can be programmed to externally turn campus lights on and off at predetermined times saving electricity, bulbs and manpower in the process.
Also contributing to the college’s efforts to remain environmentally responsible are water conservation through the adoption of natural and drought-resistant landscaping, the use of a computer-controlled irrigation system, waterless no-flush restroom urinals and the move to an artificial FieldTurf playing surface composed of rubber from recycled tires and sneakers at Cougar Stadium.
From a recycling standpoint, College of the Canyons has for the last five years been in compliance with the California Integrated Waste Management Board’s initiative to reducing total solid-waste generation by at least 50 percent.
“This has been done with an aggressive recycling program, the separation of green waste and composting efforts, the recycling of electronic e-waste and the separation of construction materials into like categories before disposal,” Schrage said. “Together, this campus has been able to substantially reduce our landfill output.”