When Rock Valley College students walk into the Jacobs Center for Science and Math or the Physical Education Center, they’re entering buildings that espouse sustainability.
Both buildings have been awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Level Certification for sustainable and green design by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Physical Education Center was the first Illinois community college facility to achieve gold certification.
“Within our group of sister colleges, we have one of the lowest energy costs at $1.22 per square foot,” said Michael Papp, director of business services at RVC. “These LEED buildings have a lot to do with that.”
The Jacobs Center employs geothermal heating and cooling. Air from 160 wells is pumped into the buildings. In the summer, the air is used to cool the buildings. In winter, the air is warmer than outside air, so it requires less energy to heat it to a comfortable temperature.
That, along with high-efficiency water heaters, solar power, high-efficiency light fixtures, occupancy sensors for lights and vegetated green roofs save money and reduce carbon output.
The geothermal system also provides about 90 percent of the heating and cooling for Classroom Building I.
The Physical Education Center features low-flow water fixtures, a highly efficient HVAC system, an energy recovery system for exhaust air steam, sustainably grown wood products, occupancy sensors for lights and more.
Stephen Fleeman, an associate professor and academic chair of sustainable energy systems, said the buildings are great lessons for students about sustainability.
“They can see what’s possible. They can look at what’s been done and build on that,” Fleeman said.
Michael Phillips, RVC director of facilities, plant operations & maintenance, said the student opportunities are an important part of why the college pushed for the LEED certifications.
“It’s not only for cost savings, but for learning opportunities,” Phillips said.
Fleeman said the college will soon add a smart grid classroom that will teach students about real-time energy pricing so they can see how prices fluctuate and energy usage can be managed.
“Energy is not an inexhaustible resource,” Fleeman said. “We’re trying to prepare students so they can answer these issues.”