Uptown campus must pursue better energy-saving options

Kathryne LeBell, Views Editor

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

Tulane University, like any other mid-sized university campus, has a large rate of energy consumption. With about 50 buildings used for classrooms and other day-to-day activity, as well as 14 residence halls, it is understandable that there might be a need for certain energy-conserving measures to offset the high usage. There have been initiatives to do this, as Tulane seeks out as many Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design credits as possible. But low-flow toilets and architecture designed to encourage the use of stairs is not enough. More stringent installations are required to truly make Tulane a green campus.

One potential tool to make dorms and classrooms more energy efficient are present in many foreign hotels. Electrical key card switches in rooms require a card to be inserted to activate the room’s electrical circuit, providing electricity for use. When the card is removed, the circuit is broken and the room is cut off from electricity. This prevents lights from being left on, among other things.

These switches are very cheap to purchase and, with dorm rooms and suites already on an independent circuit, relatively easy to install. It is quite easy to leave the lights in your room on, but leaving without your Splash Card is a little bit more difficult.

One concern with this device is the inability to leave devices charging in your room while outside of it. This issue has already been dealt with in the hotels that use these switches. It is possible to leave one live socket, separate from the circuit flowing through the rest of this room. This socket could be available for mini-fridges, as well as chargers, while still keeping the lights off when not in use.

When introducing something like this, it would be wise to test it out in classrooms first. Students often walk into class and find the lights or projector on from previous classes, left on for any amount of time. All of those lights across campus add up in energy usage. Turning them all off, even for just an hour, is enough to impact excess energy usage.

Certain dorms, including Butler Hall, already have occupancy sensors that switch lights off when there is no motion present. It is not that much of a stretch to extend that to all dorms, followed by inexpensive and commonly used electrical switches. While Tulane’s pursuit of LEED Gold and Silver certifications in building construction and renovation is admirable, it is not enough to offset the energy usage required to support the present student body. Administrators must start looking at other, less commonplace methods to reducing that usage.

Kathryne is a junior at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]