Student wary of windows

Shauna Rockett, Contributing Writer

As a liberal arts institution, the University’s primary mission is to educate its students in a holistic manner. To do so, education must extend beyond the classroom.

The University’s Second Nature report, which serves as a climate action plan for the campus, concluded that the University needs to envision itself as a living, learning laboratory, where the natural resources, human resources, and facilities all complement the learning experience. The campus needs to welcome experimentation and encourage student engagement. Student projects can simultaneously promote an active learning environment and improve the University’s sustainable initiatives. As a student concerned with the school’s energy efficiency, I would like to see the addition of low-emissivity (“low-e”) coated exterior storm windows to the older dormitories. With the impending implementation of the President’s Sustainability Council, the time is right to explore the potential of these windows.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, low-e coatings control heat transfer and are microscopically thin metal or metallic oxide layers deposited on glass surfaces. Although they may cost 10–15 percent more than standard windows, they reduce energy loss by as much as 30–50 percent. Despite a higher upfront cost, this option is considerably cheaper in the long run.

Larison and Harris Halls were constructed in the early 1900s and have not been renovated in recent years. Both of these dorms would greatly benefit from low-e coated storm windows. Since the current windows are not properly insulated, a great deal of heat escapes through them.

Cornell University accomplished incredible feats in the field of sustainability on its campus by undertaking a similar project. The university made improvements to over 270 historic windows to improve energy efficiency. The changes resulted in savings of $11,700 and 20 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The University can and should be inspired by Cornell’s success.

Pennsylvania’s erratic weather, combined with the current state of the older dorms, leads to a high environmental impact, as an exorbitant amount of energy is needed to regularly heat and cool the residential buildings. Following the installation of these low-e coated storm windows, the University will take strides to meet its sustainability goals through this living, learning laboratory experiment. More importantly, students will gain awareness of the school’s sustainability efforts, which is the first step in integrating sustainability into campus culture.

With the University’s academic rigor, it is evident that students are motivated to challenge themselves. Sustainable projects are the ideal chance to do this. Even if a small student project were to ultimately be unsuccessful, failure is a chance to learn and education is the University’s mission. The University is off to a good start with the Second Nature report as a general guideline and the President’s Sustainability Council as a force of leadership. Our goal now is to integrate sustainability into the community by taking action and inspiring people to become involved. These new windows could be the perfect first step toward a greater level of sustainability on campus.

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