Skidmore College earns the 2012 Social Leadership Award: The College receives the award for its geothermal heating and cooling system

Posted by Emily Singer

Earlier this year, Skidmore became one of four colleges in the country to win the 2012 Social Leadership Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for its new system of heating and cooling buildings. Rather than using oil or other non-renewable resources that contribute to climate change from carbon emissions, the College extracts its heat and cooling from the ground.

The College obtains its geothermal heat by digging 400 to 500 feet into the ground to access parts of the Earth where the temperature remains constant. Pipes are then filled with water and travel through the deep parts of the ground, where they pick up heat during the winter and deliver it to heat pumps in the buildings. The heat is then sent to a refrigerant, which transfers it into the air or water. This process is reversed during the summer so that the heat pump takes the heat out of the building instead.
 The Murray-Aikins Dining Hall, the Arthur Zankel Music Center and the apartments of the Northwoods Village all use geothermal heating to control temperatures, making up for 16% of the total square footage of the campus, according to a recent press release from Communications. (link?)

According to Sustainability Coordinator Riley Neugebauer, there are more plans for implementing geothermal heating for Scribner Village and the Arts Quad (Filene Hall, Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater and the Saisselin Art Building), which will be using a shared "district" system. This system has already been installed in Filene Hall and the Saisselin Art Building, and the Bernhard Theater's system is tentatively scheduled for the Spring of 2014.

"This will make Skidmore College one of the first [colleges] in the Northeast to implement a district geothermal system," Neugebauer said, adding that the district system would contribute to increase efficiency and use for the geothermal heat to all of the art buildings.

"We also hope to improve the efficiency of our geothermal technology through new district system, which are already in use in other parts of the world," Paul Lundberg, capital projects supervisor for Facilities Services said in the press release. "We are one of the first in the Northeast to implement a district geothermal system."

The College first used this system when the Northwoods Village opened during the 2006 - 2007 academic year. The system was later extended to the other two buildings during the 2009 - 2010 academic year.
Once newer projects are completed, including the replacement of Scribner Village and the renovation of the Dance Theater, 36% of the buildings on campus will be heated and cooled by geothermal processes. The College's goal, according to the press release, is to be 50% heated by geothermal means by 2020.

"Our goal is to lessen Skidmore's climate impact by using a renewable energy source and reducing our greenhouse emissions," Neugebauer said.

The award is a tribute to the work the College has put forth towards increasing its sustainability, which was noted by Paul Rowland, executive director of AASHE.

"As a growing number of sustainability activities take place on our campuses, we have expanded our awards program to recognize the diverse institutions and the diverse initiatives that advance sustainability," Rowland said in a recent press release.

This, amongst many other measures, will help the College create a campus that is protective of the environment and encourage other college campuses to do the same. 

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