Greening of a Historic Campus: Hamilton College's "Green Team" Approach

At Hamilton College, stewardship of the campus is an inclusive endeavor. Many faculty members, students, administrators, facilities managers, outside consultants and other members of the Hamilton community work together to find solutions and techniques to better the campus environment and optimize opportunities for greening and education. Steve Bellona, Associate Vice President for Facilities and Planning, spoke at the Environmental Consortium's 4th annual conference, where he described Hamilton's greening efforts at the breakout session titled, Green Buildings and Understanding the LEED Rating System. Participants gained insight into the transformation that has occurred at the college since Bellona's arrival nine years ago. His concern for the environment was fostered while serving in the Coast Guard, where he was involved in fisheries law enforcement and managing and constructing Coast Guard facilities. Bellona says using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards as a guide for new construction and renovation at Hamilton, "provides the rigor that creates the momentum for the project to succeed."

On September 5, 2005, Hamilton College opened the doors to a brand new Science Center on campus with many green features. The construction of this new facility took into account the needs of the faculty, and their input was instrumental in the designing process. In fact, a "Green Team" was formed, led by Professor of Psychology Douglas Weldon, who shepherded the project for his faculty colleagues, recently retired vice president Daniel O'Leary, and members of the architectural firm Einhorn Yaffee Prescott. The team played an active role in the planning and construction of the new science building which features 56 offices, 48 teaching laboratories, 53 research laboratories, 67 support rooms and 11 high-tech classrooms.

A few examples among the fifty-five greening features of the building include:

     • wood certified as meeting forest stewardship standards for all casework and millwork

     • heat recovery from fume hood exhaust,

     • occupancy sensors in labs,

     • geothermal heating and cooling system, and

     • passive solar in the atrium which contributes to the energy efficiency of the building.

As Hamilton has increased square footage on campus, Bellona's goal has been to have zero increase in energy use. He and his team in the College's Physical Plant continue to work on decreasing it Hamilton's energy consumption.

Today, visitors to the Science Center can learn about the features of the building at an educational kiosk, for which Weldon was a strong advocate. The touch screen kiosk shows, in real time, energy use throughout the building, and in the chemistry labs, how much lab hood exhaust is being expelled, and how the passive solar installation is contributing to the energy needs of the building. The kiosk calculates and displays the cost savings, and shows how much carbon is being added to the atmosphere at any given moment.

Having become more familiar with the LEED guidelines during the construction of the Science Center, Steve Bellona applied that knowledge to pursue certification on a renovation project elsewhere on campus. In 2006, under Bellona's leadership and with the enthusiastic support of Ewing Cole Architect Charles Belson, Hamilton College received LEED Silver Certification for its renovation of the Skenandoa House, the first such LEED designation in New York State for a historic building. Renovations to the House, which was built in 1922, included the use of recycled construction waste. Residents of this hall enjoy the benefit of the geothermal ground water heating and cooling system and energy efficient lighting. Hamilton College is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership, and 100% of the power for this residence hall is purchased from renewable energy sources.

During the first winter after the renovations, temperature lows were down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Complaints of inadequate heating came in from all residence halls except from the residents of the Skenandoa House; a true testament to the functionality and efficiency of the construction and technology. In the first year alone, the renewed facility paid off the differential between the costs for installing a geothermal system versus a traditional heating system - excluding air conditioning which was an additional benefit of installing the geothermal system.

Hamilton College continues to implement greening technologies and practices into its facilities. After the completion of the Science Center and the Skenandoa House, five additional structures have been improved for environmental and cost saving benefits

In addition to building and construction, another opportunity for greening the campus is through food service. Bon Appetit is Hamilton College's dining service, and the company's managers say they are "open to trying new things and are always looking for ways to decrease our environmental footprint." They recently created a "Green Café" at the college where customers enjoy produce from local farms, and vegan and vegetarian selections. Bon Appetit uses biodegradable paper and cleaning products that are not harmful to the environment. As for the food, the company is committed to buying locally as much as possible. An initiative called "Farm to Fork," seeks to purchase seasonal and regional ingredients from within a 150-mile radius of each dining hall. Items such as fruits, vegetables, poultry, and milk are all purchased with health and the environment in mind. Luke Thornblade, a senior at Hamilton College, commented that "the information that is made available to people who eat there is great. It focuses on health issues as well as buying food responsibly and locally."

Hamilton Environmental Action Group (HEAG), a student group, promotes environmental awareness in a number of ways. Among its activities, the group organizes campus cleanups, promotes recycling, and holds special programs with guest speakers. Recycling on campus is important, and students get involved at many levels. Since 2004, Hamilton has employed work-study students to serve as a Recycling Task Force whose purpose is to work with the Physical Plant to improve the college's recycling program. In 2005, Hamilton finished in 12th in the national RecycleMania contest, organized and operated by college and university recycling coordinators and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WasteWise program. A recycling page on Hamilton's website affords the entire community easy access to campus recycling efforts, statistics, relevant events, and even a series of photos that follow Hamilton's solid waste stream to the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority.

Hamilton College is modeling a campus greening wave that incorporates not only facilities, buildings and grounds, and capital improvements, but all facets of the college and campus life. "It doesn't cost much to do what we are doing," says Steve Bellona. "The real cost is if you don't do it. It's about what we want to try to do for our future." Students, faculty and staff are proud of the environmental stewardship on campus. The greening initiatives lead more and more people to become supportive of environmental design and become active in making a positive change.


If you have your own greening success story, the Environmental Consortium would like to hear from you! Stories can be submitted to the Consortium via e-mail, and are welcome from any and all groups: students, student organizations, faculty members, faculty committees, facilities, or any other individual or department in your institution. Submissions will be posted on the website as the Consortium expands its campus greening initiatives.