Green Scene: Kish College LEEDs by example in energy efficiency

Kishwaukee College is one of the few college campuses in the country that is designated an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. In 2011, the college broke ground on a new student center with the objective of reducing the college’s carbon footprint even further. The master plan was titled “Greenapsis,” a process of implementing eco-friendly technology and practices.

The college earned two grants from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. It received $150,000 to design and commission a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified building at the gold level and a $90,000 grant to install a 75-ton geothermal field, which uses heat from the earth to heat and cool the new facilities. Using the earth’s energy instead of gas or coal is cleaner and more sustainable.

The need for the new student services building provided the college the opportunity to become more environmentally friendly and sustainable. The Student Services Building consists of counseling, campus police, administration and financial aid offices, a bookstore, a games room and large cafeteria and kitchen.

To meet the rigorous standards to become LEED certified, Kishwaukee College selected building materials with recycled content and those that contribute to healthier indoor air. Paints and carpets are made of low-emitting materials and 75 percent of construction waste was diverted or recycled. Individual controls for heat and light were installed in the offices so that individuals can adjust temperature and lighting to their comfort level.

Over the past five years, the college has saved $1 million through energy-efficient measures, reducing the campus’ energy costs by 25 percent. The Student Services Center includes a 75-ton geothermal field that serves distributed heat pumps. The geothermal loop was extended to serve renovated areas. The size of the field was determined based on the load of the Student Services Center. A boiler and cooling tower supplement the heating and cooling capacity of the loop on designated days. This “hybrid” style system allows the college to take advantage of the geothermal system on more days of the year without the cost of a geothermal system sized to handle 100 percent of the load.

Energy-efficient light fixtures and controls help reduce energy consumption, and low-flow plumbing fixtures reduce water consumption on campus.

The design team worked with the college to obtain energy grants to help reduce the impact of the larger initial costs of the sustainable systems.

The project required extensive planning, coordination, and phasing, allowing departments to move into new spaces before renovation of existing space began.

GreenScene is written by Renee Kopulos and Linda Yates, members of a citizens group working with the City of DeKalb Citizens Environmental Commission. Contact them at, with “Green Scene” in the subject line. The Citizens Environmental Commission next meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St., DeKalb.

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