Category: Climate (page 1 of 15)

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.

Put A Price On It Summer 2018 Fellowship, Our Climate (multiple locations)

Put A Price On It and Our Climate is a national campaign that mobilizes young people to advocate for strong and fair carbon pricing policies at the state and national level. By putting a price on carbon, we will hold polluters accountable and transition our economy to a clean energy future. Fellows will work closely with Our Climate staff to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. Fellows will spend 5-10 hours a week on related activities. This educational and supportive arrangement is designed to build the strong and diverse coalition of leaders needed to pass fair and effective climate policy. In order to strategically pass equitable and science-based policy, Summer Fellows will be based in regions where there is currently policy being considered, specifically Washington state and the Northeast. Fellows will be trained to conduct public outreach on the local and state level.

 

Application Deadline:  June 1st, Future deadlines for Fall and Spring Fellows
Apply: Fill out online application, and find more information on the position and future positions here.

Earth Month at Tufts 2018

Tufts has a month-long series of events planned to educate the community about sustainability issues. The month will culminate with an Earth Day celebration on the Medford/Somerville campus.

April 2nd
Tom Thumb Student Garden
Garden Club Tea Swap
8:00-9:00PM, Eaton 203

April 3rd
Tufts University Phone Bank to Defend Transgender Equality
6:00-9:00PM, LGBT Center

April 3rd
Talking 100% renewable energy w. State Reps. Connolly and Barber
7:00-8:00PM, Barnum 104

April 4th
Students for Environmental Awareness -SEA
Chasing Coral Screening and Discussion
7:00-9:00PM, Terrace Room

April 5th
Environmental Studies Program, Tufts University Lunch & Learn:
Land Cover in New Hampshire
12:00-1:00 PM, Rabb Room

April 5th
Tufts University Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning
Building Resilient Communities Networking Night
5:30-7:30PM, 51 Huntington Ave, Boston

April 6th
WSSS Symposium 2018: Water in Humanitarian Emergencies
8:30AM-4:30PM, The Fletcher School

April 6th
Tufts Food System Symposium
10AM-2PM, 51 Winthrop Street

April 6th
TCA x Polykhroma Present: Visions
8:30-10:30, 46 Quincy Street Basement

April 7th
Social Impact Ideation at Tufts
11:00AM-2:00PM, Robinson Hall, Rm 246

April 9th
An Evening with D’Lo
6:00-7:30PM, Crane Room

April 10th
Students for Environmental Awareness -SEA
Startups and App Development: A Talk with Soli’s CEO
7:00-9:00PM, Crane Room

April 12th
Environmental Studies Program, Tufts University Lunch & Learn:
Somerville Immigrant Worker Health Project: Seeing Environmental Justice Through an Occupational Health Lens
12:00-1:00 PM, Rabb Room

April 13th
Demain: Reimagining Community Systems For A Better Tomorrow
2:00-6:00PM, ASEAN Auditorium

April 19th
Environmental Studies Program, Tufts University Lunch & Learn:
The Road to Food Waste is Paved with Good Intentions
12:00-1:00 PM, Rabb Room

April 26th:
Environmental Studies Program, Tufts University Lunch & Learn
Environmental Justice in the City of Chelsea
12:00-1:00PM, Rabb Room

If you are planning any Earth Month events at Tufts that were not included on this list, please contact sustainabilityoffice@tufts.edu and we will add them.

Wolves Impact Ecosystem and Geography of Yellowstone Title Image, background has phases of moon cycle.

In 1995, Yellowstone brought the wolves back to the park. After 70 years without wolves, the reintroduction caused unanticipated change in Yellowstone’s ecosystem and even its physical geography. The process of change starting from the top of the food chain and flowing through to the bottom is called trophic cascades.  According to Yellowstone National Park, here are a few ways the wolves have reshaped the park:

Deer: It’s true that wolves kill deer, diminishing their population, but wolves also change the deer’s behavior. When threatened by wolves, deer don’t graze as much and move around more, aerating the soil.

Grass and Trees: As a result of the deer’s changed eating habits, the grassy valleys regenerated. Trees in the park grew to as much as five times their previous height in only six years!

Birds and Bears: These new and bigger trees provide a place for songbirds to live and grew berries for bears to eat. The healthier bear population then killed more elk, contributing to the cycle the wolves started.

Beavers and other animals: Trees and vegetation also allowed beaver populations to flourish. Their dam building habits provided habitats for muskrats, amphibians, ducks, fish, reptiles, and otters.

Mammals: Wolves also kill coyotes, thereby increasing the populations of rabbits and mice. This creates a larger food source for hawks, weasels, foxes, and badgers.

Scavengers: Ravens and bald eagles fed off of larger mammal’s kills.

Most surprisingly, the land: Soil erosion had caused much more variation in the path of the river. But with elk on the run and more vegetation growing next to rivers, the river banks stabilized. Now, the wolves have changed Yellowstone’s physical geography.

The story of wolf reintroduction demonstrates how crucial every member of an ecosystem is important to a landscape.

Learn more about the wolves in Yellowstone, background wolves in grass

 

Barr Resilience Program Officer

Resilience Program Officer, Barr (Boston, MA)

The goal of the Climate Resilience focus area is to increase the capacity of Greater Boston’s residents, neighborhoods, institutions, and businesses to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

This program officer will report to the Co-Director of Climate who focuses on mobility, and work with the overall climate team to help roll out the Climate Resilience focus area. The program officer will play an important role in thought leadership, strategy implementation, and grantmaking.

Barr’s program officers are integral in identifying new grant concepts—through conversation and network building with current and prospective grantees and leaders in our fields—and preparing effective written summaries and other communications for our trustees.

Application Deadline: February 2nd
Apply Online: Here
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