University construction heeds principles of environmental stewardship
by Lynn Otto and Molly Bieg
Students in the new Le Shana Residence Hall live in an earth-friendly home. Completed last summer, the three-story apartment building was designed and built green — from drywall made of recycled materials, to low-flow plumbing fixtures, to a north-south orientation that uses prevailing wind patterns to enhance natural ventilation.
Each of the university’s two newest buildings was designed with earth-friendly building practices in mind and earned green certifications. The practice of green or sustainable building involves creating healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance. The new field is gaining momentum as the environmental impact of buildings becomes more apparent.
Le Shana Hall, completed last summer, qualified for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The Stevens Center, which houses student services and classrooms, qualified for Earth Smart Green designation from Portland General Electric. The Stevens Center also was one of 10 buildings in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia showcased in the “Ten Shades of Green” 2001 exhibition.
The recent Hoover Academic Building remodeling project incorporated high-efficiency heating, ventilation, and lighting equipment. The building is expected to qualify for an energy efficiency incentive grant from Oregon Energy Trust and a Business Energy Tax Credit.
“We have strong advocacy for green construction throughout the university,” says President David Brandt. “We are stewards of God’s creation, so it seems obvious we would want to sustain God’s work.”
Brandt would like to see Christians do a better job of addressing environmental concerns from a Christian perspective, discussing or developing “a theology of green.”
To that end, the seminary this summer launched a three-credit course, “Christianity and Earthkeeping,” that explores the relationship between evangelical Christianity and creation care. The class grapples with how Christians should balance evangelism with their call to steward God’s creation, how they should understand humankind’s “dominion” over creation, why they should care for an earth many believe will be destroyed by fire, and related issues.
Building green involves a complex mix of tradeoffs when making purchasing or building choices, says associate director of plant services Dan Schutter. For example, the university lost points toward a LEED gold classification because it used locally produced Styrofoam roof insulation in Le Shana instead of shipping the only available “certified green” product from a South Carolina manufacturer. “It didn’t make any sense to burn a lot of diesel fuel to truck Styrofoam cross country,” he says.
Building green sometimes costs more than merely building to code, though not always, Schutter says. Recycling construction debris, buying high-efficiency equipment, and purchasing green power and healthy cleaning products do add costs. However, cost savings are gained through lower operations and maintenance costs from reduced energy, water, and waste.
Some financial benefits are hard to quantify in the short term, Schutter says. “But by using healthier materials and reducing the amount of waste material dumped in landfills, we reduce the cost of providing a better quality of life for future generations,” he says.
Vegetable oil powers George Fox administrator’s Jetta
While most drivers dread rising gas prices, Brian McLaughlin can rest easy: He is fueling his 2003 diesel Volkswagen Jetta with free vegetable oil.
McLaughlin, an administrator in the university’s Institutional Technology department, has traveled more than 56,000 miles on used grease from cooking fryers since he converted the vehicle nearly two and a half years ago. He collects oil every few weeks from local sources, including the university’s food service provider, Bon Appétit, and spends a few hours each month filtering it.
Oil used to cook greasy french fries, chicken strips, and onion rings is run through a homemade filtration system in his garage. He runs his car on diesel only when he first starts the engine and before he turns it off to purge the lines of oil.
“I had several people tell me I was crazy when I decided to do this,” he says. His sons (11 and 15 at the time) were embarrassed when they became the guys whose dad runs his car on stinky french-fry grease, but it turned out their friends thought it was cool.
The conversion kit he purchased through a company called Greasecar.com cost about $1,000. He estimated it would take about two years for the kit to pay for itself, but near the end of 2004, fuel prices rose, and the kit paid for itself in less than one year.
Saving money was not his only motivation, however. He appreciates helping reduce the country’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels and the fact that the vegetable oil burns cleaner than diesel. “I have a sense of satisfaction that I’m helping the environment,” he says. “And there is also a certain quirkiness to it that appeals to me as well.”
He remembers running the car the first time after the conversion. He popped the hood to check the fuel lines and saw a dark fluid, the color of used cooking oil. Then he caught the smell and smiled — the odor was a cross between stale french fries and burnt popcorn. “I find that smell to be almost pleasant now,” he says.
Climate change: an evangelical call to action
George Fox President David Brandt is one of 86 evangelical leaders who signed a statement entitled “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.” The group is calling on the government to act urgently by, among other things, passing a federal law to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The statement says scientific evidence for the dangers of climate change is clear.
It also encourages evangelical Christians and all Americans to make life changes necessary to help solve the global warming crisis and to advance legislation that will limit emissions while respecting economic and business concerns.
Other signatories include Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life; Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College; David Neff, editor of Christianity Today; and Todd Bassett, national commander of the Salvation Army.
Call to Action gained significant media attention.The Associated Press referred to the initiative as “a historic tipping point” (Los Angeles Times, Feb. 10) in evangelical response to climate change.
Le Shana Hall green features
1. Radiant floor heating
All regularly occupied rooms in Le Shana Hall have radiant floor heating. Water, a more efficient carrier of heat than air, flows through tubes, which saves fan energy.
The wallboard used in Le Shana Hall was constructed with recycled materials. The materials were produced locally, reducing the amount of transportation fuel used to ship the finished product.
The windows have glass with improved insulating properties to help provide a well-insulated building and efficient heating.
4. “Eyebrows” architecture
Aesthetic metal eyebrows above the building’s south-facing windows allow wintertime sun to permeate the residence hall rooms while blocking the sun during warm summer days.
5. Drought resistant grass
The tall fescue-blend grass has deep root systems that require less water and fertilizer. The drip irrigation system and the drought-resistant lawn require half the water of traditional landscape designs.
6. Permeable asphalt
Rainwater percolates through the asphalt. This process filters impurities before it reaches the storm-water system.
7. Roof stacks
Wood-clad stacks on the residence hall’s roof provide ventilation to cool the building without electrically powered fans. An automatic-control system opens the vertical shafts when the building needs to be cooled, and the warm air is carried out by natural convection.
8. Water efficiency
Water use inside the building is reduced by 30 percent over a typical building of its size through the use of low-flow fixtures. As a result, each apartment is expected to save hundreds of gallons of water annually.
Much of Le Shana Residence Hall is constructed with concrete that provides “thermal mass” and improved heating and cooling efficiency.
10. Building orientation
Orienting the building on a north-south axis takes advantage of the sun’s path and allows for diffuse day lighting. Prevailing winds enable natural ventilation using high and low pressure zones to create a flow of fresh air through the building.
From farm to fork
Concern for a healthier planet turns attention to seeking food from local sources
On Eat Local Challenge Day, mass-market food at lunchtime is passé. Bon Appétit, the university’s food service provider, serves a lunch prepared entirely with locally grown ingredients.
For Earth Day in spring, students ate coho salmon, grain lentil stew, and romaine salad with apples and hazelnuts, grown within 150 miles of the Newberg campus.
Students experienced a ripe opportunity to think about where the food they eat comes from — while enjoying carrots harvested at neighboring farms instead of tomatoes picked green and shipped from Mexico by air-freight.
Eating a meal strictly of local origin may not sound novel, but it bucks agricultural- industry norms. Food in the United States customarily travels 1,500 miles or more before reaching dinner tables, according to Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization. The environmental, economic, and health impacts are a growing concern.
Denny Lawrence, general manager of Bon Appétit at George Fox, buys as much food as he can from local farmers and ranchers. Buying locally is more environmentally sound because far less fossil fuel is used to transport the food, he says.
In the last academic year, Lawrence purchased food from more than 30 local farmers and ranchers within a 150-mile radius of Newberg. Several varieties of lettuce, cauliflower, tomatoes, sweet corn, and broccoli come from Mustard Seed Farms in St. Paul, eight miles from campus. The organic farm operated by Dave (G65) and Nancy Brown (G65), has existed for more than 20 years. “They have an incredible selection of autumn squashes,” says David Sherrill, executive chef for Bon Appétit. “They win awards for their giant pumpkins.” Asparagus, strawberries, and herbs come from Viridian Farms, a three generation farm located on Grand Island 16 miles southwest of campus.
All the beef comes from Oregon Country Beef, a rancher-owned cooperative that raises free-range cows without the use of antibiotics, hormones, or meat by-products in the feed. The pork served at the university, also without artificial coloring, hormones, or preservatives, comes from Carlton Farms, a family-owned business located 12 miles west in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range.
Lawrence and Sherrill are passionate about the quality of locally grown food. The produce is fresher, which means it’s tastier. “If you’re going to have great flavor, you need great products, and you’re not going to get flavor if you’re shipping tomatoes from Mexico,” Lawrence says.
The price difference in locally grown versus mass market foods is usually not significant, Sherrill says. Because local food is bought in season, the abundant supply brings the price down. Sometimes local food does cost more, but it’s worth the price because it’s more flavorful and lasts longer. “We’re getting produce just picked that morning instead of food that has been sitting around for a long time in a van or airplane,” Sherrill says.
Food grown and harvested nearby is usually healthier too, he says. Fewer preservatives are needed since the items don’t require an unnaturally long shelf life. Apples transported from a neighboring orchard don’t need to last as long as those shipped from Chile. “Local food is better quality, looks better . . . there are no negatives, really,” he says.