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September 22, 2023

Hopkins housing lags behind other University buildings in environmental efforts

By ALEX DRAGONE | April 30, 2015

In recent years, Johns Hopkins has proudly broadcasted its efforts to become a more environmentally sound institution. However, while some buildings on campus are held up as examples – the doors leading into it from Keyser Quad power themselves – the University’s dormitories are noticeably less advanced than other on-campus facilities.

The University’s Office of Sustainability, working with a number of student groups in a collaboration known as the Sustainability Network, works to make the University’s facilities and projects more environmentally sound. Dormitories, however, fall under the jurisdiction of the Housing Office.

The University currently stipulates that new construction must win a silver rank in the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standard. LEED ratings are issued by the US Green Building Council, a Washington-based non-profit dedicated to the promotion of environmentally sound building design, construction and operation. Points are awarded based on a wide variety of factors such as efficient use of water, energy derived from renewable sources, access to public transportation and construction utilizing local and regional materials. Out of a maximum 100 points, silver certification requires between 50 and 59 points. A number of buildings on campus are either LEED certified, or being constructed or renovated to become LEED certified. These include some of the University’s newer buildings, like Malone Hall, the Cordish Lacrosse Center and the Brody Learning Commons.

The Sustainability Network has issued High Performance Building Guidelines to “assist designers, project managers and maintenance technicians to improve sustainable energy designs, their implementation and operations.” The sixteen-page document includes suggestions for how structures can be built more environmentally soundly. However, the document is not a list of rules for developers working with the University. Rather, it is a set of guidelines and ideals that developers can choose to adhere to as they see fit.

One of the initiatives being taken in the dorms themselves is being conducted by Students for Environmental Action (SEA). SEA has been working with the Homewood Recycling Office to enhance sustainability in the dorms.

“We’re working with the Recycling Office to update the recycling bins in the dorms,” Nikita Singh, junior and president of the SEA, said. “We’re updating the signs over the bins.”

Singh said that while most on-campus buildings have multi-stream recycling, in which different recyclable materials must be separated, the dorms have single-stream recycling, where all materials can be put in the same receptacle. The materials are later separated at a materials recovery facility. The discrepancy in University recycling is the result of the responsibility of Housing over dormitory environmental initiatives.

“The Recycling Office has jurisdiction over campus buildings, except housing,” Singh said. “And Housing can be a very elusive entity.”

Currently, SEA is working to make sure dormitory recycling bins have the new instructive labels as other on-campus buildings.

“Right now, we’re walking around the dormitories and collecting this data. Making sure the recycling is being used properly. Then we report back to the Recycling Office,” Singh said.

One recent dormitory environmental initiative is the placing of new compost bins in Charles Commons. Another that has been in place for more time are the informative signs placed around dormitories, informing students about measures they can take to be more environmentally sound. One thing these signs stress is how easy it is to conserve water.

“[The signs are] especially in the bathrooms,” Brian McConnell, a freshman resident of the AMRs, said. “I do feel like we could use more though.”

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