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Fedigan gets sustainable LEED certification

By By: Francesca Cocchi
On April 2, 2014


The U.S. Green Building Council named Fedigan Hall a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold-Certified residence hall for its sustainability elements.

The sophomore residence hall joins four other campus buildings-the Law School, Driscoll Hall, Sheehan Hall and Sullivan Hall-that meet LEED standards based on sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design, according to the University's sustainability web tab. 

Sustainability Manager Liesel Schwarz described sustainability as "meet[ing] the needs of the present without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their own needs."

Fedigan Hall is the campus's only building that utilizes a geothermal system.

"By piping a liquid solution down to specific depths in the earth's crust that stays at a constant temperature we can provide natural cooling and heating for each season," Schwarz said. "Though students don't really see the geothermal system, they do see the thermostat in their room and are able to adjust the temperature to their needs, reducing wasted heating and cooling energy."

Schwarz described the residence hall's other sustainability features, which include vacancy sensors that automatically shut lights off in an empty room, low flow shower heads, high instillation windows that prevent drafts, lighter paint that increases natural lighting and high efficiency lighting systems that use less energy. 

Nicknamed the "Green Dorm," Fedigan Hall also has rain gardens and barrels that collect water runoff from the building and irrigate the vegetation as well as bike racks and dual flush toilets. 

Schwarz said the 2009 renovations that earned national recognition were part of the American College and University President's Climate Commitment, which states that the University will pursue LEED certification on all new campus construction projects. 

"Villanova strives to be sustainable not only because it is the right thing to do, but because as a Catholic institution it is part of our mission to help others," Schwarz said.

"Living in a LEED building a great opportunity for students to learn about sustainable design and feel like they have a greater impact on campus sustainability," Schwarz added. "Those systems which [students] can't control have been optimized."

Fedigan Hall resident Lauren Keogh said she doesn't notice many differences in her daily life that result from her building's unique design. 

While the sensor sinks save water as she brushes her teeth or washes her face, they make it difficult to wash dishes, she mentioned. 

"I think that every dorm should be like Fedigan, though, because it definitely saves electricity and water and also promotes recycling without causing any real issues for the people that live there," Keogh said.

Schwarz emphasized the economic and social aspects of sustainability.

"Many people think that sustainability is just about the environment, saving trees and polar bears," she said. "And that is definitely a part of sustainability, but not the only factors."

"We also need social justice and economic prosperity. We need to look at all of these factors when discussing sustainability," Schwarz added.

Schwarz explained the importance of seeking LEED certification and the awareness it brings regarding standards in the construction industry and builder accountability.

"LEED helps to ensure we are getting a sustainable building, and not a lot of promises that are cut or dismissed," she said. 

Freshman environmental science major Devin Smith, who is also considering studying sustainability, said she thinks it is great that Fedigan Hall and other LEED certified buildings on campus offer students the opportunity to live in green dorms, interact with environmentally-conscience design elements and learn about them.

As the University's sustainability department continues its efforts toward climate neutrality and other green goals, it plans to release the first annual sustainability report. It will focus on student engagement, communications and operations, according to Schwarz.

"We want to make sure students feel like they are a part of campus sustainability efforts and have the opportunity to participate," Schwarz said.

She added, "Communication is key to moving sustainability efforts forward. You can't accomplish sustainability in a vacuum-we need to communicate the message and get more people on board."

The department also currently works on the Sustainable Tracking, Assessment and Reporting System. The STARS website allows participating colleges and universities to compare sustainability efforts.

"In regards to LEED buildings I would say we are doing well with keeping up with other universities," Schwarz said. "In the past five years there has only been one major renovation that did not aim for LEED certification."

For Schwarz, LEED certified buildings complement eco-friendly habits that many students already practice. 

"As students, you have the power to make choices in how you live your life that can impact campus sustainability, such as turning off the light when you leave the room, unplugging your charger when not needed, taking the stairs instead of the elevator," she said. 

"But there are some things students can't change, like how efficient the heating system is, or the insulation value of their windows.Sustainability is about living in a way that doesn't hurt others," she said.

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