Saint Mary’s College making multi-million dollar energy-efficient changes

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.—Saint Mary’s College is using a newly-approved bond from St. Joseph County to make some big changes to the campus, including upgrades that will make the 175-year-old campus more energy efficient.

“We recognize that it’s time to shift our focus back to our traditional landmark buildings to enhance our student experience and enhance the academic experience that our faculty is able to provide for them,” said Vice President for Strategy and Finance Dr. Dana Strait said.

Renovations on an entire floor of a first year residence hall, the first floor of the Cushwa-Leighton Library, pavement on campus roads, and more have already been completed.

After the St. Joseph County Commissioners approved a $51 million bond for the college on August 20, plans for continued renovations are continuing full steam.

Chiefly, the school is working to preserve the school’s historical buildings while also bringing their energy usage into the 21st century.

“Something we’ve been able to do with the bond funding is to install building automation and tracking systems all across campus in every single building that allows us to be more nimble in monitoring energy usage and then controlling it,” Dr. Strait said.

Later this month, the first of many energy-monitoring screens will be installed in buildings around campus for real-time information on energy usage.

“They will allow students to see how their building is using energy over time, so across hours of the day in hopes of bringing that front of mind to encourage students to turn off the tap when they don’t need the water or be more thoughtful when turning out the lights,” Dr. Strait said.

LED lights now replace older, less energy-efficient light bulbs in original ceiling fixtures.

Windows are in the process of being replaced in an effort to control energy usage.

An old storage room for seldom used journals in the library’s basement will soon be a 24-hour study space.

A “green roof” on the top of Spes Unica Hall is a response to the constantly evolving landscape on Saint Mary’s campus. The self-sustaining greenery allows for natural gases to be sent back into the environment.

Last year, Angela Athletic and Wellness Center renovations included the installation of energy saving occupancy sensors. About 70% of the demolished materials were recycled and the center’s café now utilizes biodegradable packaging made of bamboo.

Students hoping to grab a cup of coffee at the kiosk in the library have to bring their own cup as there are no single-use plastic cups available.

Dr. Strait hopes the changes will have a positive impact on students’ personal use of energy.

“Part of being world changers is caring for the earth and sometimes making radical choices that speak to our values,” Dr. Strait said.

Moving forward, the college is working to establish infrastructure for a sustainable farming initiative using lands from the Sisters of the Holy Cross, which was born out of smaller sustainability projects like composting of dining hall garbage.

Take a look at an artist's renderings of what the Cushwa-Leighton Library will look like.

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