Southeastern’s newest student housing is one of the university’s latest and largest sustainability initiatives garnering national attention, and yet it is also only one part of a grand plan to create a more eco-friendly campus.
For over 500 Southeastern students, the 2018-2019 school year began by moving in to one of the two new, state-of-the-art residence halls. Ascension Hall and Twelve Oaks Hall, located adjacent to the former Zachary Taylor Hall, feature private and shared rooms, classrooms, meeting and common areas, and dining and retail venues. But while the roomy, contemporary spaces may be what awe most people who enter these additions, what’s below the surface is perhaps even more exciting.
Ascension and Twelve Oaks halls have a hybrid geothermal system. With this type of system, pumps move heat from the ground to the building when the weather outside is chilly. When cooling is needed, the process is reversed. The result is a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and economical solution to heating and cooling.
An initiative of Southeastern Sustainability, the system is the first of its kind for any university or state building in Louisiana. The new buildings, which draw from 220 geothermal wells, are also the second largest site in the country to use a system like this.
In addition to environmental benefits, the system significantly reduces heating and cooling costs. It is projected to save over 50 percent on energy expenses as compared to a traditional system and build.
And students now get to feel the effects of this new technology in more ways than one; the system also serves as a learning laboratory for real-world experiences for Southeastern students in various disciplines.
This ambitious construction project is the latest in a long line of efficiencies executed on campus with the lofty goal of becoming 30 percent “off the grid” by 2025. Other current efforts include the use of wind turbines, incorporation of photovoltaic panels, and harnessing of solar thermal energy at several sites across campus.
With student organizations such as Reconnect and the Student Government Association leading the way, students are helping promote the use of refillable water bottles, the retrofit of water fountains into modern refillable water bottle fountains across campus, new additions of recycling bins across campus, and adoption of community garden plots on the grounds at the Sustainability Center.
What started out as a committee tasked with addressing litter concerns has evolved into a committee that is now a driving force behind making Southeastern more green.
“This is a perfect example of what makes Southeastern so special,” said President John Crain. “I convened a group to combat litter. They not only addressed that issue, but then
began exploring ways to expand involvement and nurture a culture of conservatism across campus. Southeastern’s students, faculty, and staff always go above and beyond. This is but one instance.”
For more information about Southeastern’s ongoing efforts to keep getting greener, go to southeastern.edu/sustainability or visit the university’s Sustainability Center and see the efforts in action.