Institute recognized for sustainability

For the third year in a row, the Institute received top marks in the Princeton Review’s Green Rating, earning a spot on the Green Honor Roll along with 18 other colleges and universities. In addition, the Institute received 18th place in Sierra Magazine’s list of ‘cool schools.’ The Institute received a score of 81 for its sustainability efforts, with the top school receiving an 88.6. Last year, Tech was placed 21st, just half a point away from the top 20.

“We’re really glad to have the recognition, and we want all of campus to feel the benefit because it’s their work that we’re talking about,” said Marcia Kinstler, Director of the Office of Environmental Stewardship at Tech.

According to Sierra Magazine, the rankings for this year placed more emphasis on energy usage at college campuses. Tech recently commenced a massive energy efficiency project on campus. Kinstler said that the Institute received grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to perform lighting upgrades in 47 buildings across campus. When completed, it will result in a 15 percent energy consumption drop within those buildings, equivalent to approximately 34 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Kinstler said the nature of the projects has allowed Tech to continue to receive funding for sustainability and remain a leader in the field.

“We have received funding for these projects because we have shovel-ready projects. Along with innovative and energy efficient proposals, that is an unbeatable combination,” Kinstler said.

Through the stimulus programs Tech has received $6.7 million for energy efficiency and $10 million for the new Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory in the North Avenue Research Area. The building will be the first on campus built to be carbon-neutral and will house research projects for energy and sustainability technologies.

However, with increasing funding cuts at the state level, it will become harder for the Institute to pursue an ever expanding number of projects.

“We would all do more if we had unlimited budgets. Money will continue to be an issue. Currently, there are over 350 projects going on across campus. There’s signs of construction everywhere you look,” Kinstler said.

In its effort to make buildings on campus more sustainable, Tech has been building and renovating buildings to meet the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Tech currently has four LEED certified buildings, with many more buildings in the pipeline to become LEED certified. The North Avenue apartments are currently under review, and if certified, will be one of the biggest buildings to receive LEED certification.

Tech was also recognized for its leadership in sustainability research and offering courses in sustainability. Pursuing research at the forefront of sustainability allows the Institute to implement and adapt new technologies in its day to day operations.

Sustainability will play an even greater role as part of the Strategic Plan that will be released next week. Kinstler hopes that with the new plan the Institute can continue to improve sustainability efforts.

“Every year the bar gets raised, and it gets harder and harder to move up. We have to not only beat the competition in front, but also get ahead of the ones moving up,” Kinstler said.