Sustainability director puts green in greenbacks

Flanagan: Environmentally-friendly programs don’t have to cost more than their traditional counterparts

By Andrew Shih

Environmentally-friendly programs don't have to cost more than their traditional counterparts, Sustainability Director Ilsa Flanagan said Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking to students and faculty in Swift Hall, Flanagan said sustainability programs have faltered in peer institutions in the wake of the recession. "We have to demonstrate the aggregated environmental and economist benefits of sustainable design," Flanagan said.

Flanagan encouraged the school to set concrete goals for energy efficiency, pointing to the University of Wisconsin's hope to use zero energy, and while that goal hasn't yet been met, it spurred other improvements.

Searle Laboratory, built last year and given a LEED Silver Certification, exemplifies many of the green innovations the University plans to introduce in new buildings. It features a sensor-controlled thermostat that Flanagan said has brought costs down up to 50 percent and its green roof "captures rainfall and also cools the building." Flanagan said a similar roof design would be used for the under-construction Theological Seminary building and other new buildings on campus.

However, not every energy efficiency goal is easily met. Flanagan said Mansueto Library's large dome will leak heat but was kept because it is aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, Mansueto functions as a storage space for books, which saves energy against the alternative: trucking books to campus. "There are trade-offs," she said. "We have to decide [what's best] for the university as a whole."

Though programs at other schools are faltering, Flanagan said, the U of C has no reason to doubt that campus organizations such as the Green Campus Initiative and the Sustainability Council aren't valuable. "A sustainable campus should always be thriving," she said.