Skenandoa LEED Plaque Unveiled
One day after the official celebration of Earth Day, Hamilton College unveiled a Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy Conservation) plaque certifying that Skenandoa House has met the conservation qualifications set by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Last year only two buildings in New York met the USGBC requirements for certification. Skenandoa House, an 84-year-old residence hall, is the oldest building in New York to be so designated.
"The building sector produces almost half of the carbon dioxide emissions which are a primary cause of climate change. Buildings also consume more than half of the nation's energy," said Tracie Hall, executive director of the New York Upstate Chapter of the USGBC, at the unveiling ceremony. "Today we gather at Hamilton College to celebrate the rebirth of a building and a commitment to the health and well-being of future generations. We gather with the evidence that Hamilton College has placed an emphasis on the four e's of a sustainable future: education, economy, environment and everyone," she continued.
Participants in the unveiling ceremony also included Skenandoa renovation architect Charles Belson, Bear Clan Representative to the Oneida Nation Mens' Council Brian Patterson, president of Murnane Construction Jim Hogel, Hamilton Associate Vice President of Facilities Steve Bellona, Hamilton Environment Action Group student representative Jennifer Kleindienst and Hamilton President Joan Hinde Stewart.
"For many years human beings have taken the blessings of Mother Earth for granted, assuming that what has always been will always continue to be," said Oneida Nation representative Patterson. "But now we seem to be approaching a tipping point, where protecting the environment is becoming a universal concern and a universal cause. It is gratifying to me as an Oneida person to see the wisdom of my ancestors being embraced by more and more people every day."
Today's ceremony also included brief remarks by Stewart, Belson, Hogel and Bellona. The plaque was unveiled by Hall and Kleindienst with the others looking on.
LEED certification of building projects is difficult to achieve, since the projects must meet or exceed myriad requirements. Five environmental categories are defined in LEED including: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.
"The Skenandoa House is a building the students and community can be proud of," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, U.S. Green Building Council. "This campus building will serve as a showcase for high-performance, energy-efficient, healthy buildings, and an inspiration for other colleges."
Built in 1922, the former Psi Upsilon chapter house was rededicated as Skenandoa House in 2004 in honor of the Oneida Indian chief and friend of Samuel Kirkland. In 1793 Kirkland founded the Hamilton-Oneida Academy that later became Hamilton College in 1812. The third college to be established in New York State, it is today among the oldest in the nation.
In addition to careful workmanship that restored the building's exterior to its original grandeur, the most notable feature is the use of "green" technology throughout. The renovations included a 16-well geothermal ground water heating and cooling system, individual thermostats in each room, energy efficient lighting, extensive building materials reuse and construction waste management.
Bellona explained, "Not only does Skenandoa House consume significantly less energy per square foot than our other relatively new residence halls, but our cost for renewable electrical energy, on a square foot basis, was less than other residence halls using non-renewable fossil fuels. This is an experiment for us, but so far we are pleased with the payback."
In its first year of operation, the geothermal system in Skenandoa House used 250% less energy per gross square foot than a standard gas-fired heating system in a comparable residence hall (47.6 mbtu/gsf vs. 123.2 mbtu/gsf).
The efficiency of the geothermal system is its overwhelming advantage. While conventional heating and cooling devices must convert outside temperatures to reach comfort levels, geothermal heating and cooling uses ground temperatures of around 55 degrees to help moderate the temperature differential. The process requires only electricity to run a heat pump and small circulation pumps, eliminating the use of natural gas.
All electrical power used in Skenandoa House is completely "green power" (wind, small hydro). While more expensive to purchase, green electrical power has reduced greenhouse gas production in carbon dioxide by 107.1 tons, nitrous oxide by 289.5 pounds and sulphur dioxide by 765 pounds. By purchasing 100 percent green power, Hamilton is also a member of EPA's Green Power Partnership.Hamilton has recently committed to purchasing 10 percent of its energy from green energy sources. All campus building and renovation projects are now designed with a focus on LEED certification guidelines. Hamilton students also operate recycling and food salvage programs. The college community continuously researches additional conservation initiatives.