Academic Green: Students Build Solar Panels

With three photovoltaic arrays, two composting toilets and two greenhouses, the Environmental Living and Learning Center, an ecologically friendly residence hall of Northland College has set a precedent for Northland College.

| February/March 2001

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  • Solar Panels
    Students are now building solar panels for their homework.
    Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors

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  • Solar Panels

Northland's has long had a strong Environmental emphasis in its curriculum so when a housing shortage became problematic, students, staff and members of the community converged to plan a residence hall in keeping with the college's integrity. "It fits our mission and meets the strong interest of the students," says Tom Wojciechovski, director of student development.

With three photovoltaic arrays (totaling 45 individual solar panels), two composting toilets and two greenhouses, the $1.4 million building has set a precedent for Northland, which will incorporate some of the dorm's more favorable green features in future building projects. Northland is planning to build a new student center within the next year that will utilize daylighting to cut down on the use of artificial lights, waterless urinals and lowflow toilets, sustainably-harvested hardwoods and recycled (and recyclable) carpeting from companies such as Atlanta-based Interface.

According to Wojciechovski, the educational value of the dorm outweighs the economic payback. Nonetheless, he estimates the efficiency of the building will probably save the campus about $10,000 this year in operating cost.

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