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CVTC puts sustainability speaker’s message into practice

Speaking in front of an Aeroponics display, Dr. Daniel Svedarsky, the director of sustainability at the Crookston, Minn. campus of the University of Minnesota, speaks to a group of students while touring energy and horticulture program facilities at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

When Dr. Daniel Svedarsky spoke to Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) students last month about “The Many Faces of Sustainability on a College Campus,” he wasn’t talking about goals or some idealized future. He was very much grounded in the present.

“It’s all pretty cool. It’s not only the future, it’s the present. Energy is going to drive the decisions on the things we do,” said Svedarsky, the director of sustainability at the Crookston, Minn. campus of the University of Minnesota.

Svedarsky could see the principles he discussed on display in present-day CVTC facilities, but some even more exciting concepts in incorporating principles of sustainability into a college campus will be coming with CVTC’s proposed Energy Education Center.

“The building itself will be like a living learning environment,” said Aliesha Crowe, dean of industry, agriculture and energy at CVTC. “We’re going for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification.”

In his remarks to CVTC students, Svedarsky went over examples of what colleges are doing to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

“Macalester College (St. Paul) has been retrofitting or installing occupation sensors on lights,” he said. “They are saving $300,000 a year that they weren’t saving six years ago, and they are not making any sacrifices in creature comforts.”

Such sensors, which shut off lights in unoccupied rooms, are used extensively at CVTC facilities.

Svedarsky said that the attitude of spending as little as possible to get a building up and running with little thought to costs to keep it running is starting to change. He noted Northland College in Ashland  spent 25 percent more on a new dorm construction and gained 50 percent energy savings.

Planning for the Energy Education Center involves much consideration for operations costs, according to Crowe.

“We’ll be using a geothermal system for heating and cooling,” she said. “And we’ll be using a chilled beam technology in the ceiling system.”

Chilled beams use cold water to cool the air, which then sinks as warm air rises, providing natural air circulation.

“We’ll be using a lot of LED lighting through the whole facility, and we’ll be making as much use as possible of natural lighting.” Crowe said.

Svedarsky discussed how colleges are reducing runoff with innovated storm water management plans.

“There are ways to treat that runoff water in what are called rain gardens,” Svedarsky said.

In rain gardens, natural vegetation is planted and runoff water is collected into the rain garden area. The plants help filter the water as it is returned to the groundwater table rather than allowed to run off into surface wetlands.

“We’re going to plant rain gardens at the Energy Education Center where water might otherwise run off into the storm sewer system,” Crowe said.

In addition, the plants in the garden will be used as a learning environment for the Landscape, Plant and Turf Management program.

As part of his visit, Svedarsky toured the current labs used by students in environmental, heating, cooling and horticulture-related programs at the East Annex building adjacent to CVTC’s Business Education Center.

“There is technology in here that is essential for the students. I’m envious,” Svedarsky said.

The proposed Energy Education Center would house the Landscape, Plant and Turf Management; Electrical Power Distribution; Agri-Science; and Environmental Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, & Heating Service Technician programs.

CVTC has secured 80 percent of the private funds needed to break ground for the facility.

There are many opportunities for people to get involved in the development of the center. To make a contribution, go to or call 1-800-547-CVTC (2882).