With energy prices rising rapidly these days, consumers, businesses and other energy users are looking for creative ways to cut costs. One of America's most prestigious universities has come up with a novel approach by hiring a specialist to promote sustainable development on campus.
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland is considered one of America's most beautiful college campuses. But many of the old buildings could be made far more energy efficient, saving both money and precious natural resources.
Davis Bookhart is the newly-hired manager of Energy Management and Environmental Stewardship at Hopkins. His job: develop new initiatives to conserve water and electricity, encourage recycling, and reduce the University's "environmental footprint.” Bookhart says, "We can maintain a beautiful campus, and we can maintain all the great structures and buildings that we have, but we could also do it in a way that makes us more sustainable for the future.
We have a very large environmental impact because we use a lot of lights, we use energy, we have heating, and we use a lot of water. What we want to do is we want to minimize the mark we leave behind."
Mr. Bookhart says that to do that he will need to build coalitions with students, and faculty members like Bill Ball, Professor of Environmental Engineering.
Ball is impressed by the work done so far, "A person whose fulltime position is to think about these issues and have these visions and work with the students is just what we have needed."
Mr. Bookhart is full of ideas for modifying even the smallest energy-wasting systems on campus. "So what we can do is we can put a device in here that will sense whether or not people are coming through and are needing to use the machines in the middle of the night, and by putting in one of those devices that will probably help us save about may 30 to 50 percent on our electricity costs."
Another idea is to convert rooftops here into so-called "Green Roofs." Green roofs are natural vegetative covers that help control storm water runoff and reduce energy use by insulating buildings from temperature extremes.
Ball explains the concept of green roof. "The concept of a green roof is to mitigate many of the environmental impacts that occur from the rooftops that are really part of the impermeable surfaces of cityscapes.
This entire scape here, this roofscape can turn into a garden essentially and be doing a lot of good."
Bookhart's energy savings projects also promise substantial economic benefits. The University saw its electric rate rise 36 percent last year, and anticipates an equivalent increase this year.
Ball agrees there will be an immediate benefit. "You know some of these sustainable activities and these energy efficiencies that we are looking for have a direct economic benefit to the University, and the University will immediately see the benefit of those."
What is happening at Johns Hopkins is beginning to be seen at other U.S. Universities as well, as campuses that always appeared green are about to become greener still.