Are there unique challenges that architects, designers and administrators face when designing or remodeling educational facilities to be healthier and more energy efficient?
Larson: One of the first things that always comes to mind is priorities that are competing for resources, the same pot of money or board engagement and approval. I think the solutions we’re seeing emerging are integrating those goals together. Deferred maintenance for existing buildings is a big challenge for universities, and when they can integrate the ability to upgrade their infrastructure systems to migrate off of fossil fuels, for instance, that can be coupled with the need to renew their infrastructure systems that are now aging and becoming obsolete. Tying various goals together is one way they’re working at that.
The other challenge, in addition to working with existing buildings, is anticipating future needs. I foresee a conversation about, ‘How much should we invest in upgrading the heating system to get off fossil fuels vs., or in addition to, adding air conditioning because our dorms are now unsustainably hot in months when it used to not be so hot?’ These tradeoffs are not only happening in real-time, but we’re also trying to project how those tradeoffs are going to play out in the future given a changing climate.
Cordes: The University of Colorado’s Boulder campus has decided they’re going to electrify their entire campus, so every project has to build the infrastructure for this electrification decision. To Martha’s point, they’re tying together a deferred maintenance program with this long-term goal of electrifying the campus. It’s a great way to think through their long-term goal to get off fossil fuels. We really need to think about it, and higher education institutions are getting pretty smart. Because they do hold these buildings for 100 years, they can think about it in a more progressive way.
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