Fedigan Hall renovations prove effective after one year



Tara Powers

After a full academic year, the environmentally friendly renovations to Fedigan Hall are living up to expectations, according to Facilities Management.

“Water [conservation] was the easiest to quantify,” said Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Robert Morro. “We measured the utilities in the building in the year before the renovations and in the year after.”

On average, Fedigan Hall residents are using 1,050 fewer gallons of water per day, which translates to 31,500 fewer gallons per month.

Water-conserving plumbing fixtures were the largest change made inside the building. Dual flush toilets were installed, as were sinks with automatic sensors on the faucets. 

Low-flow showerheads were added to the Fedigan showers, which are also equipped with timers to encourage shorter showers that use less water. 

Water was also conserved in the building’s operation and cleaning activities. Fedigan staff use microfiber mops, which need much less water and cleaning fluid to perform the same cleaning tasks. The fluid, which is dispensed by the mop’s pole, is also green-certified. 

Electricity usage was harder to quantify, Morro said, since Fedigan Hall did not have an electric meter before the renovations. According to the theoretical calculations performed by the building architects and engineers. However, a 20 percent reduction is expected.

Each bedroom has energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs, and the light switches are equipped with heat and motion sensors.  

This means that if a resident leaves the room and leaves the lights on, the switch fixture will be able to shut the lights off automatically.

The energy used for heating and air conditioning also cannot be easily tracked, since a central steam system provides heating in conjunction with a geothermal system created as part of the building’s renovations.

Two geothermal wells are connected to ground source heat pumps in each of the student rooms, and they support a portion of the building’s heating and cooling needs.

In the spring and fall, all of the heat provided to the building comes from these geothermal sources. When the weather gets colder, the steam heating supplements the geothermal heating. Morro said that the theoretical energy saved on heating and cooling is between 20-25 percent. Fedigan Hall did not have air conditioning before the renovations, so the building does use more energy during those parts of the year when air conditioning is turned on. However, Fedigan’s air conditioners are tapped into chillers already installed in CEER, effectively cooling both buildings.  

Morro also emphasized that part of the cooling is done by the geothermal wells, which cost nothing.

“This was a learning and research opportunity for the College of Engineering faculty and students,” Morro said. “They were involved in the design and in the monitoring after the installation.”

Facilities Management may make some adjustments to the geothermal wells based on the analysis done by Al Ortega’s engineering students, who are studying the geothermal wells.  

The building’s windows were also replaced with energy-efficient double-paned windows, reducing overall heating and cooling costs.

A storm water management system — funded by a Pennsylvania state Growing Greener Grant — on one side of the building redirects all downspouts into two rain gardens on either side of Fedigan’s front door. The water deposited here is either transferred back into the earth or gets reabsorbed into the atmosphere. Another group of civil engineering students under Robert Traver is doing experiments on the effects of these rain gardens, Morro said.

The porous pavement on the walkways leading up to Fedigan also allows rainwater to be absorbed back into the earth rather than running off into other bodies of water and carrying pollution with it. Facilities Management is hoping to get LEED-EB, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings, certification for Fedigan Hall, which takes up to a year to get and involves submitting all paperwork for design and construction.  

Morro noted that it is more difficult to merit this certification with an existing building like Fedigan, where the small mechanical room limits the kind of equipment that can be stored there.

“Fedigan Hall was built in 1930 in the midst of the Great Depression,” Morro said. “It hasn’t really had any major renovations since then, and in one summer we brought it up to modern sustainable standards.”