Warren Green, a student residence on campus, was recently retrofitted to become more energy-efficient. A pilot project of the College's Sustainability Committee and Sustainable SLC, a student activist group, the building is now home to 13 ecologically minded students.
Solar panels help produce hot water, using glycol loops to transfer the heat from the sun to the water that needs to be heated. Even on a cloudy day, the solar panels can heat water to approximately 89 degrees; on a sunny day, the water gets up to a toasty 110 degrees—the ideal temperature for hot water.
When the solar thermal system falls short of heating the water to 110 degrees, this on-demand water heater makes up the difference, heating up to 12 gallons of water per minute. An average water heater, by comparison, uses natural gas to heat water consistently throughout the day, whether or not it is needed. With the installment of the on demand heater, the College saves instantly on gas expenses.
To further reduce heating costs, warm drain water from the dishwasher, shower, and faucets runs through a heat recovery coil on its way to the sewer. The coil captures the heat from the waste water and uses it to pre-warm fresh water before it goes through the solar panels, thereby reducing the energy needed for heating water.
A subgroup of the Sustainability Committee researched the most energy-efficient models of household appliances, from low-energy dishwashers and refrigerators to low-volume toilets and shower heads. A traditional shower head uses up to 10 gallons of water per minute, but the low-volume shower heads installed in Warren Green use just three gallons of water per minute.
Residents of Warren Green share a common commitment to sustainable living. They have agreed to unplug appliances when not in use, use only cold water to do laundry, take brief showers, flush toilets only when necessary, and buy household items, including food, in bulk whenever possible.
New gutters funnel rainwater into a 500 gallon storage tank. Using a hose attachment, the rainwater can then be used to water the house's new vegetable garden.
Sam Lipschultz '09, a food activist and experienced agriculturist, leads the planning for the garden. The first crop will include kale, swiss chard, broccoli, and collard greens. For the winter cover crop, garlic and winter rye will be planted. Lipschultz is the co-founder of Sustainable SLC, as well as a member of the College's Sustainability Committee.
The eco-friendly culture in the house extends to all daily activities, including cooking and eating. Residents take turns making weekly trips to local farmer's markets, which supports local food systems. On weeknights, the students dine together, rotating the cooking and cleaning duties.