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Eco-Ambassadors Tour the SEC

Recently, the Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), located on the Medford/Somerville campus at 200 College Avenue, received LEED Gold certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary green building rating system that recognizes high-performance, energy efficient and sustainable buildings.

On Wednesday afternoon, 11 Eco-Ambassadors went on a tour of the SEC to better understand what makes the building so energy efficient.

Elliott Miller and Michael Skeldon from Facilities Services along with Bruce Panilaitis, the Director of the Science and Engineering Complex, led the group through the architecturally stunning building to explain the inner workings of this state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind building.

Repurposing Tufts’ History

The exterior of an older building accents the new modern building’s interior

In the initial planning stages, the SEC was set to be built next to the location of the older Robinson and Anderson Halls, with potential plans to demolish Robinson Hall. However, they later decided to preserve both of the older buildings and convert them into wings of the new SEC. Not only is this more sustainable, it also helps preserve the history of the University. What is left is a stunning juxtaposition of old and new with the exposed brick visible within the modern interior of the atrium of the building.

The SEC houses several departments including Biology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, as well as the offices and labs of several other departments. The structure of the spaces provides ample opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Energy Efficiency

The SEC is designed for maximum energy efficiency. The building has tight doors and a white reflective roof to reduce the summer cooling load. While having an all-glass exterior may seem inefficient, the triple glazing on all SEC windows reduces heat loss in cooler months and helps keep the building cool in warmer months.

The volume of air that goes in and out of the building is tightly controlled. Conditioned air is recirculated from office and classroom areas and blended in with outside air for laboratory use. The building also uses low and medium temperature chilled water to provide year-round cooling. The chilled water has two systems and different supply temperatures (38°F and ~60°F) to optimize the efficiency of the CEP (Central Energy Plant) chillers and to provide efficient condensation free cooling without risking dripping from the chilled beam cooling.

Scheduling and occupancy sensors are built into each lab and office in the SEC and daylight dimming sensors automatically control the light levels in rooms to adjust for varying amounts of sunlight. There are also carbon dioxide air quality sensors in meeting rooms. When there are more people, more air is let into the room to maintain a consistent minimum air quality level and a comfortable temperature. If no one is detected in the room after a preset amount of time, the lighting is turned off and the heating or cooling set-points are significantly relaxed to minimize energy use until someone reoccupies the space.

Exposed piping on the ceiling of a lab in the SEC

Exposed piping on the ceiling of a lab in the SEC

A striking aspect of the building is the exposed ductwork and piping which actually has a very practical purpose — having all of the valves and airflow controls exposed allows technicians to easily see the control position indicators of the equipment and troubleshoot a malfunction, often without even having to get a ladder. This allows for quicker repairs which reduce the amount of time when energy can be wasted as the problem is being solved.

Sustainable Lab Design

A typical lab bench in the SEC, with components plugged into the ceiling which can be easily removed and replaced to suit the researchers' needs

A typical lab bench in the SEC

The SEC’s new LEED Gold certification is particularly notable because of how difficult it can be to achieve a sustainable design in a laboratory building. These types of buildings tend to be highly energy dependent and unsustainable due to necessary safety precautions and the complex needs of lab occupants. Air changes in lab spaces are particularly important as they make sure that the air stays clean of contaminants and at a moderated temperature.

One of the tour guides, elliott miller, points to the exposed piping in the ceiling to explain the air ventilation systems in a lab

Elliott explaining the air ventilation systems

 

The building’s lab spaces use a minimum amount of air changes to reduce the amount of heating or cooling necessary to maintain the laboratory environment. To help optimize the air change rates, an air quality system monitor made by Aircuity, a company headquartered in Newton MA, measures certain parameters like VOCs, dust, humidity, and CO2, and compares them to the outside air. The system samples the air every 15 minutes and if abnormalities are detected, the frequency of air changes (air from the laboratory gets sucked out and replaced by new air coming in from the outside) is increased until the contaminants in the air are back down to an acceptable level.

Normally,  a minimum of five air changes occur each hour during the day, and less at night when no one is in the building. Mike explained that this is much less than some other laboratories that are designed to constantly exhaust 10 to 12 air changes in an hour.

The labs also have high-efficiency low flow fume hoods that are able to sense how much air should be flowing based on whether the fume is open or shut and if there is a person present. When no one is present, less air is drawn through which helps to further conserve energy.

The labs also accommodate a wide range of research needs while respecting sustainability. “A key aspect of efficiency is adaptability,” Michael explained. In the SEC, each level has the same basic layout even though the building is used by many different departments.

In addition, the individual labs are designed to be easily modified. The furniture is not fixed so that it can be easily moved at any time and infrastructure aspects such as vacuums, chords, chemicals, and gas can be easily installed or removed from fixtures on the ceiling. This allows the needs of the researchers occupying the lab at any given time to be easily met without needing to significantly change the physical space.

Utilizing the SEC

The SEC is as functional and practical as it is energy-efficient and beautiful!

One of the biggest challenges of introducing a new, state-of-the-art building such as the SEC comes after the construction is completed. A building with many sustainable functions cannot live up to its full potential without the understanding and support of its occupants. For example, even though air is tightly controlled to ensure the highest possible energy efficiency, this is rendered useless if the occupants decide to leave the windows open in their office all day.

While there will be a slight learning curve to using the building, the SEC is sure to provide a comfortable and exciting learning and innovating space for students, faculty, and other researchers for years to come.

Grafton Campus Zero Waste Picnic

Today, we headed over to the Grafton campus for the final President’s Picnic of the year! The beautiful scenery surrounding the campus was a great setting for promoting sustainability.

 

 

As with the other picnics, the event was a zero-waste affair. In addition to having our zero waste stations, we were also able to reduce waste emitted from our event by serving condiments in bulk rather than in small individually wrapped packages, and by promoting the use of reusable place settings instead of the dishware provided at the event.

Our staff setting up the zero waste stations

As has become tradition, we handed out free door prizes – “I saved a tree at the president’s picnic” stickers and a reusable sandwich bag – to everyone who came to the picnic with a complete reusable place setting. We define a “complete” place setting as being a plate, utensils, and something to drink out of (a reusable bottle, cup, or mug).

Our sticker and sandwich bag prizes

Those who brought their own place settings were also encouraged to enter our raffle. We raffled off our final lunchbox, and had Dr. Joyce Knoll, the interim dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary medicine, draw the winner. Dr. Maureen Murray of the Tufts Wildlife Clinic was our lucky winner!

The lucky winner of our final lunchbox – Dr. Maureen Murray from the Wildlife Clinic!

We have really enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm the Tufts community has for sustainability. Some attendees proudly showed us their OOS swag they got from previous president’s picnics, such as the reusable personal hand towels from last year and the reusable lunch boxes from two years ago!

She brought the lunchbox she got from us two years ago!

Thanks so much to everyone who attended the picnics this year and brought their own place settings. Catered events often have a lot of waste associated with them, so we are so glad that you all have helped us make Tufts events more sustainable. We can’t wait to see you all again next year, and don’t forget to tell your friends — we always bring prizes!

Boston Campus Zero Waste Picnic

Another president’s picnic, this time on the Boston campus! Although it was forecast to rain, we luckily didn’t feel a single drop throughout the duration of the event.

As with all of our zero waste events, all of the trash bins normally available in the green space next to the Jaharis Building for Biomedical and Nutrition Sciences on the Boston campus were covered so that attendees would not be able to use them.

Something that was different about this particular zero waste event was that everything given to the attendees including cups, plates, utensils, and napkins were all completely compostable. While we usually have both recycling and composting toters at our zero waste events, at this event we simply needed to direct people to place all their used items and leftover food into the compost.

Michelle with the free reusable sandwich bag she got for bringing her own place setting!

As has become tradition, we handed out free sandwich bags to the lucky first 50 people who came to the Office of Sustainability’s table with their own reusable place settings from home (or from their office!).

President Monaco picking the raffle winner!

 

Additionally, everyone who brought a component of a reusable place setting was invited to enter our raffle. President Monaco picked the lucky winner, Dorothy Vannah, the director of the Simulation Learning Center at Tufts School of Dental Medicine.

The lucky winner with her new lunchbox!

In addition to handing out flyers about commuting benefits and becoming an Eco-Ambassador, we also had Michelle Lee-Bravatti, a second-year graduate student at the Friedman School help spread the word about the new composting program at the Boston campus that she initiated this past spring. Not only are there composting bins in several locations throughout the Boston campus, individual offices can also inquire about getting an office composting bin. Be sure to contact michelle.lee_bravatti@tufts.edu for more information.

Next week, we’ll be in Grafton for the final President’s Picnic of the year!

Tufts Community Resilience Building Workshop

In 2016, Tufts University’s President Anthony Monaco signed the Second Nature Climate Commitment on behalf of the university. The Commitment integrates two critical components of climate leadership: carbon neutrality and climate resilience. One stipulation of the Commitment is for the university to complete a campus-community resilience assessment.

While climate change mitigation strategies aimed to reduce carbon emissions are often emphasized, it is equally important to consider how communities can plan for the predicted impacts of climate change.  In addition, due to recent events such as Tropical Storm Irene and Sandy, there is a heightened sense of urgency within our local and regional communities to increase resilience and adapt to extreme weather events.

In order to advance the Climate Commitment goals and address concerns that the Tufts community has regarding natural and climate-related hazards, Tufts University hosted a Community Resilience Building Workshop for the Medford/Somerville campus. The workshop took place on May 3rd, and was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy.

Picture from the resilience building workshop, attendees listening to speaker

Source: Adam Whelchel/TNC

Community Resilience Building workshops help municipalities and institutions create an opportunity for their community to to gather and plan proactively for potential emergencies. This is an important step towards climate adaptation and community capacity-building to deal with a changing climate.

The Tufts University Core Team that helped prepare for and organize this workshop included Tina Woolston from the Office of Sustainability, Geoff Bartlett and Matt Hart from the Department of Public and Environmental Safety Emergency Management Unit, as well as two Tufts students, Emma Conroy and Sophie Lehrenbaum.

Around 60 Tufts and surrounding community members attended the workshop, including representatives from various Tufts groups such as Facilities, Finance, Health Services, Construction, Public and Environmental Health and Safety, as well as undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, representatives from the City of Medford’s Office of Energy and Environment and Office of Public Health, the City of Somerville’s Office of Sustainability and Environment, and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency were also present.

The full day event started with an overview of climate change impacts in the Northeast, the top 4 potential climate related hazards as identified during a recent Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment undertaken by the Department of Public and Environmental Health and Safety, and an introduction to the resources that would be discussed during the next portion of the event. These resources included maps of the campus, the existing hazard mitigation plan, information on the number of days over 90 degrees and flooding, as well as maps depicting natural disasters that have affected the area.

Source: Adam Whelchel/TNC

Attendees were then broken up into five groups, and through a facilitated process, discussed the existing vulnerabilities and strengths of the campus, and prioritized concrete actions that could be taken. As a part of this process, each group illustrated where they thought vulnerable areas and potential hazards were located on top of a base map of the university.

One group’s illustration of hazards on the Medford/Somerville campus (Source: Adam Whelchel/TNC)

While all groups recognized that Tufts, along with its host cities, already has many strengths and assets that will help in emergency situations, many recommendations were made on how Tufts could better prepare for such events through longer term, comprehensive planning.

Some of the top priorities for action by the Medford/Somerville campus community that came out of the workshop were:

  1. Human Welfare – supporting students and employees during an emergency
  2. Infrastructure – utilities, stormwater, and continuity planning and upgrades
  3. Food – food supply, distribution, and storage during an emergency

Community-based actions towards adapting to the predicted impacts of climate change can lead to planning and preparation that meets the specific needs of the community and the local landscape. In addition, it helps empower community members to take charge and prepare for some of the climate-related challenges we currently face as a society that may not be within our individual control to avoid.

Adam Whelchel, the lead facilitator of the workshop, commented, “the Nature Conservancy is proud to have played a part in helping Tufts University take a significant step towards enhanced resilience via the Community Resilience Building process. Tufts now joins an elite group of universities around the globe that have proactively embraced resilience as an opportunity to find a more vibrant future for their faculty, staff, students, and the surrounding community.”

Similar Community Resilience Building Workshops will be coming to the Boston and Grafton campuses soon, stay tuned!

 

Announcing: Spring 2018 Green Fund Recipients

The Green Fund is a new program at Tufts that provides funding for the implementation of sustainability-related projects proposed by the Tufts community. Managed by a committee made up of students, faculty, and staff from all four Tufts campuses, the Green Fund will help realize innovative and inspired projects that strive to make the campus a more sustainable place.

The funds for the Green Fund come from the Sustainable Investment Fund‘s endowment payout which refreshes every year. This means that even projects that are not designed to have financial payback to the school are eligible. For this soft launch of the program, a total of $10,000 was available for funding.

Without further ado, here are this year’s three winning proposals that will be funded by the Green Fund:

Hodgdon Solar Charging Stations – $6500

The Tufts Energy Group (TEG), a student-led group that focuses on engaging and educating the Tufts community about energy issues, has been working for the past two years on making solar power more accessible to Tufts students and faculty.

TEG secured a $10,000  grant from SunBug, a local solar energy company that has already installed solar panels at the Somerville/Medford campus on top of Dowling Hall, to help realize a solar panel installment that will be more visible and accessible to the Tufts community. However, more funding is necessary to cover additional necessary construction and consulting costs, as well as the publication of educational materials and signage.

The new solar panels will be visible on the south side wall of Hodgdon Hall, and the energy produced will be available for use by students to charge their electronic devices on the patio and in the common room during the months that the patio is not in use.

With this project, TEG hopes to increase renewable energy usage and awareness on the Somerville/Medford campus and promote energy education and learning for students.

Construction is tentatively set for early this summer. For more information on this project, email ryan.biette@tufts.edu.

Dental School Water Bottle Filling Station – $3000

Water bottle filling stations similar to this one will be installed on several floors of the Tufts Dental building

The Tufts University School of Dental Medicine has several ongoing “green” goals, one of which is to greatly reduce and eventually eliminate the use of plastic water bottles at all events and meetings held on their campus.

The school had stopped providing water bottles at senior administrative, departmental, and committee meetings, and guests have been asked to bring in their own reusable water bottles. Pitchers of water were made available during these meetings for attendees to refill their bottles.

In order to further increase the usage of reusable water bottles, Mary-Ellen Marks, Jini McClelland, and Talita Turnier from the Dental School’s administration proposed to retrofit existing water fountains in the school with Rapid Water Bottle Filling Stations.

While one of these Filling Stations is already located on the 7th floor of the dental building, the additional funding will allow the school to install one more Filling Station on a different floor of the building.

Composting on the Health Sciences Campus – $500

Michelle Lee-Bravatti of the Friedman School sorting through compost (Source: Erin Child)

Michelle Lee Bravatti, a second-year Nutrition Epidemiology and MPH student at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, set out earlier this year to bring composting to Tufts’ Boston Health Sciences Campus.

In coordination with the Office of Sustainability, the Tufts Boston Campus Facility Services,  and the Friedman Student Council, Michelle helped launch a pilot composting program at the Boston Campus.  Previously, composting was not available in any of the Boston Campus buildings.

Through this effort, four composting bins were established throughout the campus in three different locations. In order to help expand the program to more locations and to ensure that the program will continue, Michelle applied for funding through the Green Fund.

These additional funds will help recruit and compensate a student program manager and two student volunteer workers to monitor and empty compost bins as well as spread awareness about the program, purchase biodegradable liners for the compost bins, and place additional bins in the Friedman and Sackler School buildings.

Future opportunities:

For the next round of proposals this year, a total of $30,000 will be available to fund 1 or more projects. Moving forward, the program will be able to fund any number of projects with budgets adding up to $40,000. Proposal deadlines for future rounds will be posted as soon as they are determined.

Through Brighter World, the university-wide funding campaign, it is now also possible for members of the Tufts community to make a gift that goes directly to the Green Fund. Find out more on the campaign website.

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