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Butler University Going Environmentally Friendly

Everywhere you look on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis, there’s something “green” going on. A new classroom and lab addition to the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences building was built following national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria. Ditto for renovations that brought an abandoned 80-year-old fraternity house back to life.

From the campus-wide recycling programs to police riding fuel-efficient Segways, the University is making every effort to be environmentally friendly.
“We have an opportunity as an institution of higher learning to educate our students and promote and live by our new strategic plan, which says we’re going to be environmentally conscious,” Vice President for Operations Michael Gardner said. “It’s the right thing to do, not only environmentally, but I can also make a good financial argument in terms of operational savings going forward. These measures pay for themselves.”

The just-completed $14 million addition to the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences building is expected to achieve silver certification from the national LEED program. The addition features low-flow faucets, toilets, urinals and shower heads; LEED-platinum carpeting and modular tiles; motion and occupancy sensors throughout the building; and T5, T8 and LED light bulbs to conserve electricity.

Additionally, some of the heat generated from the University’s data center, which is housed in the Pharmacy and Health Sciences building, will be used to heat part of the structure during the winter months. The data center uses fewer, more power-efficient servers and reduces the number of physical servers by an 18-to-1 ratio.
The addition is designed to use 44 percent less water and 33 percent less energy than a similar, typical building.

The addition’s white roof was chosen to reflect rather than absorb heat. Bicycle racks, changing rooms and showers were installed for people who ride their bikes to work and classes. Additionally, more than 5 percent of the building’s parking lot will be reserved for hybrid vehicles. Materials such as structural steel, limestone and drywall came from local sources, and 75 percent of the waste material was recycled rather than shipped to a landfill.

“All future construction at Butler will follow the example of the pharmacy and health sciences addition, helping us advance the University’s commitment to reducing our carbon footprint,” Gardner said.

Renovation of the Phi Delta Theta house at 705 W. Hampton Dr. has transformed the 1929 structure into the first LEED-certified fraternity house in Indiana. Phi Delt’s house corporation board decided to go green early on, house corporation officer Eric DeWitt ’99 said.

“We felt that we had an opportunity to take advantage of the direction the university and the marketplace were heading,” he said. “The timing was right.”

With the 1929 exterior intact, contractor Meyer Najem demolished everything inside down to the cement floors and out to the exterior walls, which are brick on the inside and Bedford limestone and Carolina granite on the exterior. Maintaining green space by using the existing parking area earned LEED points. Regional materials were used wherever possible to reduce using natural resources to transport them. So the project also earned points for using drywall, concrete block with recycled content and limestone all sourced within a 110-mile radius of the campus.

The house is noteworthy for its durability, livability and eco-mindedness. Lights are on sensors. Highly reflective material is used on the roof. A state-of-the art HVAC system both heats and cools with forced air, eliminating the need for a boiler. In addition to a sprinkler system and downstairs kitchen, the house includes a room dedicated to the storage of recyclables. Outside, high-efficiency cars get the premium parking spaces, which include electrical outlets for hybrids. Locked and covered bicycle parking is also provided. What the 48 residents won’t get is that “new building smell,” due to the HVAC system and use of low- or no-odor materials including glue, paint and carpet.

“The attention to detail was enormous,” DeWitt says, who hopes Butler Phi Delts for several generations will benefit. “This is a 100-year fix. My hope is that these undergraduates recognize what has been done and the time, money and effort that have been invested in it—that they will respect the property and the opportunity they have in front of them.”

Across campus, the University has instituted programs to recycle paper, cardboard, metal, light bulbs and batteries. A $24,425 grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has been used to replace, upgrade and increase the number of recycling stations on campus. All cleaning chemicals used by housekeeping staff are “green” products. The foam hand soap in campus restrooms cut down on water waste. All paper products and trash bags are environmentally friendly.

Student Accounts moved to online billing, saving paper and resulting in a decrease of 6,000 pieces of mail yearly. The food service has eliminated trays to save water. The campus’ center for the study of urban ecology is piloting a composting project on campus. It’s also looking into porous parking lots – areas that allow water to flow through and into the subsurface soil/groundwater – for overflow parking at events.

Honeywell, an international technology and manufacturing leader with Indiana roots, helped Butler obtain several smaller, more efficient hot water boilers to save on its natural gas consumption. Light sensors are being installed in classrooms and restrooms to save electricity. More bicycle racks have been installed to encourage cycling commuters.

Around the grounds, leaves and flower waste are composted and returned to planting beds. Grass clippings are returned to lawns, not bagged. Used oil from equipment is recycled. Butler University Police Department officers use two-wheeled electric Segways for some patrols instead of gas-powered cars, and the department has purchased its first flex-fuel vehicle. Campus police also have a standing directive to power down lights in classrooms not in use when patrolling buildings.

The University even has a new course called Sustainability in Business, taught by Bob Bennett, professor of business law.

“There’s a lot of evidence out there that our current consumption of natural resources is unsustainable,” Bennett said. “There’s also a lot of evidence that China and India, among others, aspire to have the same level of consumption as we have. It’s not a model that should be emulated. I think we need to do something to change our model before it’s too late.”

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