Green efforts ongoing at RU
Students at Radford University may find it a little easier to be ecologically friendly this semester.
This year, some students will be part of a study on energy conservations. Others might be able to ride their bikes or take the bus a little more frequently with new bike “fix-it” stations around campus and new routes added to the Radford Transit.
“Radford is a leader in the community and we are trying to model sustainable practices in the community,” said Julio Stephens, Radford’s sustainability coordinator.
Stephens and other have been working on various projects, large and small, around campus to encourage students to use alternative transportation and conserve energy.
Energy dashboard study
One of the biggest additions students will see on campus is in the Governor’s Quad, a group consisting of the residence halls Floyd, Stuart, Trinkle and Peery. Those halls are involved in a year-long study on energy use via a program called Building Dashboard. The study seeks to find educational activities that best encourage people to limit energy use. About 150 people live in each residence hall, which means a little less than 20 percent of on-campus students will be involved in the study.
Two of the buildings, Floyd and Stuart, have been outfitted with touch-screen monitors that show in real time how much electricity, water and steam heating (which heats both the buildings and hot water) each building is using.
The study is being funded by a two-part grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Foundation. Stephens said one $20,000 of the grant went toward the touch-screen monitors.
Stephens said a reason Radford was chosen for the grant and study is the campus tracks all its energy use through digital submetering. The digital metering makes it easy for Building Dashboard to display real-time data on the touch-screens.
The touch-screen monitors update energy use data every hour. They also compares the current day’s use to the previous day’s.
The study includes the touch-screens and special residence life programming. The buildings will have different assignments based on the needs of the study.
Residence life programming could include things like fliers, posters, bulletin boards, speakers, projects or crafts, according to Stephens.
Stephens said the point of the study is to see “how interventions matter. The thought it is [the touch-screens] will make a difference.”
He also said since Radford uses digital submetering, the study will be able to actually compare hard data instead of just subjective feedback from study participants.
Another visible change is the expansion of the Radford Transit system. One new route and four new buses have joined the year-old public transit service.
Sheri Lewis, the marketing specialist for Radford Transit, said the bus system carried about 187,000 passengers during its first year of operation.
“It surpassed what we thought was possible,” Lewis said.
The transit system averaged about 17,000 passengers per month. Lewis said many of those passengers were Radford students, faculty and staff, who can all use the bus service for free. However, community members are also being encouraged to use take the bus. A trip is only $1 for people not connected to the university.
“It verified that Radford really did need public transportation,” Lewis said.
Radford Transit ran five buses that each were able to carry 29 people last year. The four new buses are each able to carry 35 people. The new buses made it possible to add the new route, which will service the Copper Beach area.
Lewis said small changes to some of the routes and the addition of the new route were conceived mainly through conversations with riders.
One change was made to the Route 40 line, which takes riders to Radford, Christiansburg, Blacksburg and the Megabus dropoff area. It only ran on Friday and Saturday last year, but it will run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this year.
Other changes include routing bus lines that go through Radford’s campus to the Armstrong Complex and to the new COBE building. Some bus routes are also beginning to run earlier in the day to meet more commuters’ demands.
Lewis said sometime in the next few months, riders will be able to use a re-designed, mobile-friendly Radford Transit website and a new bus tracking app to know when the bus will come.
Overall, Lewis deemed the first year of the Radford Transit a success for riders and for the environment.
“It helps get a good number of cars off the road,” she said.
Fix-it stations and more
Some environmentally-friendly projects around Radford aren’t as large-scale as the Building Dashboard study or the Radford Transit expansions, but will impact student life.
One new feature on campus is three new bicycle “fix-it” stations, made by a company called Dero. These sturdy metal stations have air pumps to help inflate students’ tires. The stations also have various tools like wrenches and screwdrivers that riders can use to adjust pedals and other bike parts. The station has a stand for bikes to rest on while they’re getting worked on.
If students don’t know exactly how to use a tool or make an adjustment, they can scan a code on the stand with their smartphone and get directions for many common bike fixes.
“Our campus is small enough, biking across it is easy,” Stephens said. “Hopefully this will encourage people to bike more.”
Currently, there’s a station near the Bonnie student center and near Muse Hall. Radford has a third unit, which Stephens said would probably be installed near the newly-renovated Moffett Hall.
One bike fix-it station is near a BigBelly solar trash and recycling compactor. The compactor unit has been on campus for about two years, Stephens said. It looks like a normal trash bin, but has solar panels on its lid. The energy collected from the panels can help power the compactor.
Stephens and his team earned a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for a magnetic chilling system installed in the HVAC of Preston Hall.
Dalton Hall also recently received new LED lighting that replaced fluorescent lights in early 2012. The panels in the dining hall’s ceiling use less energy and have a longer lifespan, Stephens said.
Currently, Stephens is working on creating a climate action plan to eventually neutralize all of Radford’s carbon emissions.
“We’re looking decades down the road on how we hope to move forward,” he said. “We’re trying to be a leader in sustainable efforts in higher education.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-1662
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