Each year, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement on April 22, 1970, and provides a global context to reflect and take action to protect the future of the planet. As the college nears its centennial and considers what the next 100 years will bring, creating a sustainable environment for our community is vital to the college's continued success. A major action step towards this future has been completed with the installation of a solar power system, which will become active starting next week.
The new 545 kW system will mean an estimated 6,948 tons fewer CO2 emissions over 30 years, as well as produce nearly $100,000 of energy savings to Otis College. The selected Solar World panels ranked second on the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) Scorecard in 2015, a resource for consumers that rates manufacturers' panels safe for the environment, workers, and communities, and were installed by Sun Light and Power, a California Benefit Corporation and certified B Corp.
The solar panel project is one of many exciting features included in the campus improvement plan. "These key LEED-certified features move us toward greater sustainability and contribute in a very concrete way to a greener future for Otis College," said Bill Schaeffer, Vice President for Administrative and Financial Services. For even more ways Otis College has "Gone Green," see the breakdown below.
Having an on-site renewable energy system will offset campus-wide electricity usage by approximately 20% and as an added benefit, the panels provide shade for cars parking on the upper decks of the garage. The commissioning of the building energy systems ensures the installed equipment is operating as designed. In addition, the high-efficiency HVAC systems in use are significantly more efficient than the stringent California Energy Code and enhanced refrigerant management systems reduce the effect of ozone depletion.
Water-saving measures were taken throughout the campus improvement project, including the water efficient landscaping which continues to be planted around campus. All campus stormwater is captured, filtered, and returned to an infiltration system on site and the installation of low volume/dual flush toilets and waterless urinals will save thousands of gallons of water per year. With these measures, our buildings' water consumption will be reduced by 50% over baseline usage.
Nearly 31% of the residence hall and academic wing is built from recycled materials. Over 20% of building materials were extracted, processed, and manufactured regionally to promote local business growth. During construction, low-VOC emitting materials including adhesives and sealants, paints and coatings, and flooring systems were used and an indoor air quality management plan flushed out irritating chemicals emitted by carpet, paint, glues, sealants, and coatings. High reflective roofing material was installed to reduce “Heat Island Effect," the heating up of urban areas by heat absorbing surfaces, and greatly reduces heat gain within the building. As the project was completed, over 84% of construction waste was recycled.
In addition to materials and systems, changes were made to encourage community participation in "Going Green." Facilities implemented a campus-wide recycling program which allows occupants an easy way to divert waste from the landfill. Eight EV charging stations were installed in the parking structure, with the capacity to expand to sixteen stations in the future. Our clay studio uses low-fire ceramic kilns that are energy-efficient, with firing takes place at night during "low peak" usage and the printmaking and letterpress labs use all non-toxic, eco-friendly inks and printmaking processes. Water stations for reusable bottles are available throughout campus and eco-friendly packaging options offered at the Café.
Recognizing the innovative role artists and designers can play in solving pressing challenges, Otis College offers a sustainability minor that provides students with a broad understanding of the social, political, economic, and environmental issues that impact the future of humanity and our planet. In addition to the minor, industry-specific courses are offered within majors such as fashion design and toy design, and also through Liberal Arts and Sciences courses, like instructor Elektra Grant's Human Ecology course. On Friday, as part of the students' Spring Fest celebration and in recognition of Earth Day, Grant's class again partnered with painter and 'around the world mandala project' lead Gary Palmer, to create a community chalk mandala as a reflection on the relationship of the individual to nature and society as a whole.
Images: Photos of the Otis College solar panel project, Steve Prohl; Photo of Gary Palmer's mandala project, Allison Knight