Sustainability: MSU and you

Sustainability is more than just being environmentally conscious. Sustainability is the art and science of thinking long term. Actions can be taken by individuals and society there to ensure continuity in a world of shifting variables.

In celebration of Earth Month, the Exponent explored projects around MSU that ensure sustainability on campus and included steps you can take to live a greener life.


Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship

To the untrained eye, the area between Jabs Hall and the Johnstone Center seems like a dirt patch. And to the trained eye, it still looks like a dirt patch. After construction is completed, however, this will be a fresh green lawn — a lawn with a big, geothermal, secret hiding underneath.

Adjacent to the new building and under the dirt is a geothermal well that is used to heat water in the winter and cool water in the summer. This simple yet effective means of generating energy is just one of the many ingenious ways the architects, engineers and construction workers are ensuring Jabs Hall lives up to its expectation.

As impressive as the building is from the exterior, the real value lies in the interior design. Sam Des Jardins, the project manager for campus planning, design and construction, envisions students spending time studying, collaborating and connecting in the “breakout spaces” throughout the building. All of the classrooms have moveable furniture and are conducive to an education experience, whether that means re-positioning the tables or using the window as a dry erase board.

The south-facing wall of glass, along with many other windows and skylights, nearly eliminates the need for artificial light during sunny days in Bozeman. “People are going to want to stay here,” Des Jardins said. “That in itself is a way to get more use out of a space, rather than just having a building without any people.”

The roof is also sustainable, with holes in the black roof that allow for air intake. The sun will heat up the air as it is being ventilated into the system, rather than taking in colder air and solely heating it by conventional means.

Joshua Talbert, resource conservation engineer from facilities services discussed the roof. “Think about those days where it is 18 degrees outside and sunny. Why wouldn’t you use the heat energy that is already there?”

In the summer, cooler air will be taken from the other side, out of direct sunlight. The change illustrates the multi-faceted approach MSU is taking to lowering the energy demands and using the building for energy production.

The entire roof has the necessary wiring in place for future solar panel installation when photovoltaic panels become more affordable. The elevator, which is purposely located away from the main entrance, encourages people to use the staircase. This results in both energy and maintenance savings. Up the shrewdly positioned stairs, each office has an individual thermostat that links to the main system;  this allows temperature can be regulated on an individual basis.

“Energy needs drop like a rock when an occupant controls his or her environment,” Des Jardins explained. “Fundamentally, what we are doing is using less energy while getting optimal comfort.”

Sensors were put in place throughout the building to allow maintenance staff to monitor the effectiveness of these innovative designs by reviewing things like water intake, energy use and geothermal efficiency. According to Des Jardins, having concrete data is “absolutely essential for us to model and see what is really going on. We can then apply that data to test out different ways to make the whole system more efficient.”

Joshua Talbert, resource conservation engineer from facilities services, knows the finer details of Jabs Hall sustainability strategies. He is confident that the design and mechanisms throughout the building will not only dramatically lower environmental impact in the present, but will be willing and able to adapt to shifting technologies.

The grand opening of Jabs Hall is scheduled for May 7, with classes starting in Fall 2015.


Office of Sustainability

Kristin Blackler, the sustainability director at ASMSU, believes sustainability means to seek out win-win situations. “At the Office of Sustainability, we are always looking to be effective on more than one front,” she said.

The Office of Sustainability was started in 2012 with the mission to make MSU less wasteful. To fulfill its mission, the office has began to implement single stream recycling and advocating for responsible institutional policies.

“One of our biggest challenges is trying to reduce our environmental footprint while simultaneously adding students and buildings,” Blackler said, “We are doing a great job of making our new buildings very energy efficient, but the majority of our buildings are older and that is more of a challenge.”

The Office of Sustainability is pushing a few different measures that are conducive to making MSU more sustainable. For example, the office advertises alternative forms of transportation such as biking and utilizing the Streamline Bus, minimizing waste through E-scrap (safely disposing electronic equipment) and recycling, and advocating for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. One of the most recent programs is a pilot to explore composting food waste from the dining Halls.

As of Jan. 14, over 16,000 pounds of food waste have been composted from Miller Dining Hall. This number represents pre-consumer waste (such as kitchen scraps and unused material) from just one of the campus dining halls since the beginning of 2015. The Office of Sustainability and University Food Services plan to expand the program to include pre-consumer and post-consumer waste (leftovers on the plate) from the other dining halls and coffee shops at MSU that would provide high-quality soil enrichment for Facility Services to use on campus grounds.

According to a 2011 report by Environmental Consultant Michael Vogel for MSU-Extension, 20 percent of landfill space in the state of Montana consists of yard, garden and kitchen wastes. This waste, which adds unwanted moisture to the landfill, simultaneously creates explosive gases within the facility. Much of this material can be composted, which not only eliminates the problems that landfill facilities face, but also produces high quality soil enhancer.

Composting food waste reduces the amount of trash that the university pays to transport to the landfill, and savings helps to cover overhead costs related with the composting project. Recycling Coordinator Logun Norris manages the dirty work of the operation. He believes if the pilot project is expanded the net savings just from eliminating the per ton charge to the landfill could fully fund itself, or even completely eliminate one or more of the days the landfill truck comes to collect waste on campus.

“It’s all about doing the best with what you have,” Norris said, “And we are getting better all the time.”