October 2000

The greening of Furman

Although any fashion-conscious person would never consider wearing green and purple together, the colors seem to be a perfect match at Furman.

Within the past two years, the university has undertaken a number of environmental initiatives that are helping Furman garner national accolades while encouraging faculty, staff and students to live in a more earth-friendly way.

Last month, the university unveiled its latest environmental project - the Eco Cottage. Located on the north side of the lake, the cabin has been fitted with energy-saving devices, including electricity-generating solar panels and low-impact faucets and toilets. Insulation and energy-efficient doors and windows have also been installed.

The eight sophomores living there have pledged to live a more environmentally friendly life by recycling, cutting down on energy consumption and limiting water use. The group has also agreed to use only recycled paper products and keep a record of their energy usage and lifestyle changes.

The data collected from the Eco Cottage will be compared to the cabin next door, which has not been outfitted with energy-saving equipment. The student residents living there have not been asked to make any lifestyle adjustments.

"The exercise may offer guidance in conserving resources and could be something that other universities may want to emulate," says Frank Powell, a professor of health and exercise science who is co-directing the project with EES professor Bill Ranson.

News articles on the Eco Cottage have been featured in state newspapers and placed on national newswires, where they have been picked up by other newspapers and media outlets. The Eco Cottage is just one of many environmentally friendly initiatives that Furman has recently adopted.

Earlier this fall the university distributed more than 20 bicycles to encourage less automobile traffic between North Village apartments and the academic buildings.

Also, the faculty has approved a concentration in environmental studies. The capstone course of the concentration, IDS 55: Environment and Society, will be offered during the spring term and will be team-taught by professors Wade Worthen (biology) and David Redburn (sociology). In addition to IDS 55, students enrolled in the concentration must complete EES 21(Environmental Science) and an approved humanities course, social science course and natural sciences course.

The new university cooling system, currently being installed, will be more reliable and less costly than the current system and will help reduce overall energy consumption at Furman. The new system is scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.

Furman's most expansive environmental endeavor will be the "greening" of Herman N. Hipp Hall. The building's architects are working with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) to design Hipp Hall. LEED is a national group of architects and engineers that encourages the construction of energy-efficient buildings.

Powell says LEED offers a "green certification" to these buildings, which are constructed mostly of recyclable materials and minimize energy consumption.

"This project will likely produce the first LEED building in South Carolina," says Powell. "It's a major commitment on the part of Furman."

Powell says there are few LEED buildings in the South, but there are a number in the Northeast and West where environmental concerns are more pressing.

He credits the formation of the Furman Student Environmental Action Group and the Environmental Advising Committee in 1989 for helping to raise the environmental awareness of the university.

The Associated Colleges of the South also provided a $5,000 grant for the renovations of the Eco Cottage. Powell and Ranson are both ACS Fellows. Powell added that President David Shi, vice presidents Wendy Libby (Business Affairs) and A.V. Huff (Academic Affairs), and Doug Lange (director of Facilities Services) have been enthusiastic in their support for environmentally friendly proposals.


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Inside Furman is published monthly during the school year by the Furman University Department of Marketing and Public Relations. For story ideas, e-mail John Roberts, editor.