By Annika Prom | Jan 8, 2020

Residents of the new North campus dorms may not notice the many sustainability features of their buildings. If they take a closer look, they’ll find the residence halls are rich with hidden touches that save energy and make living easier. 

All residence halls on North Campus are LEED certified, meaning they were built with sustainability in mind. Students, though, might not be aware of some features that Housing & Food Services (HFS) implemented.

Capital Planning and Sustainability Manager JR Fulton said HFS considered budgeting, infrastructure, and lifestyle when creating these dorms.

“There's not really a big silver bullet,” Fulton said. “So we look at all the different kinds of aspects of what goes into a building.”

Each residence hall contains a bike storage room to encourage community members to think beyond personal vehicles when getting around. The paints used in the dorms contain zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which is the substance that creates the “new car smell,” according to Fulton.

HFS also installed a special thermostat across the campus residence halls that saves 5% of the overall energy in a building. Students can set this thermostat between 68 and 74 degrees. After two hours, the thermostat reverts back to 66 degrees. After two days of inactivity, the room becomes 55 degrees, saving energy while students are on vacation. 

HFS saves water by installing one gallon per minute showerheads in bathrooms, and using subsurface drip irrigation to water plants. To cut down on electricity, the buildings use high efficiency elevators, as well as LED lights.

The North Campus buildings are set up to support photovoltaics, so solar panels can be installed once there is funding or student action in place.

“My goal is to create equal citizens,” Fulton said. “I want students to learn from the sustainability features.”

Fulton believes there are three ways to become more informed and socially responsible. Among these are personal commitment, pure leverage, and providing the foundation to make those changes. 

Students can achieve this goal by creating an environment that fosters sustainability and being dedicated to adopting healthy habits.

For students interested in learning more about sustainability, Fulton recommends checking out SEED (Students Expressing Environmental Dedication). This club collaborates with HFS to promote environmentally sound practices in the residence halls and dining facilities. SEED meets on Thursdays from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in Madrona 313.

HFS also has a video to teach the UW community about sustainability tools in the dorms.