March 26, 2010

James Knight, associate director of utility and cogeneration facilities.

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By Sam Alcorn

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Work to replace the Elaine Langone Center's ventilation system at Bucknell University is under way. When finished this summer, the improvements will provide a substantial savings in energy costs and a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The $500,000 project, funded by a $250,000 Conversation Works grant from Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $250,000 in matching funds from Bucknell, will also provide a boost to the local economy, according to project managers.

The project will employ more than 20 skilled workers, technicians, engineers and programmers at various times throughout the construction.

The grant, one of 99 statewide conservation grants, was initially announced in December.

40-year-old system
The construction contract to replace the Langone Center's nearly 40-year-old air-handling units and upgrade the ventilation system was awarded to Silvertip Inc. of Lewisburg.

"In addition to Silvertip, all of the subcontractors are based in Central Pennsylvania," said James Knight, Bucknell's associate director of utility and cogeneration facilities. "The project will inject more than one-half million dollars into the local, regional and national economy. What's more, nearly all of the equipment purchased for the project will be manufactured in the United States."

The project will include replacing the two air handlers serving the Bison Café and Bostwick Cafeteria on the bottom floors of the 120,000-square-foot facility and upgrading the dining areas to a variable air-volume system with computerized occupancy monitoring.

Adjustable air flow
The state-of-the-art system will adjust air flow to areas based on the number of people in the rooms. Ventilation rates and energy use can automatically be reduced when rooms are unoccupied and optimized when occupied.

Completed in 1971, portions of the Langone Center have been renovated over the years, but the Center's original ventilation system has not been upgraded since it was first installed.

"The new system is expected to reduce energy usage by at least 60 percent," said Knight, noting that the reduction will create an annual savings of $100,000 for Bucknell. "The efficiency improvements will save 380,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 238 tons a year."

Mid-August completion
Started March 15, the improvements are expected to be completed by mid-August.

"We are trying to keep building disruptions to a minimum," said Knight.

Walls Lounge will be closed from May 6 to June 1 to permit ductwork installation and other upgrades. The Bison Café will be closed from June 21 to July 2 as the new air handlers are installed. 

"Bostwick and some other areas of the building will not have air conditioning during that time, but will remain open," said Knight. "All other work will be performed while facilities are closed, at night or in phases so that only limited areas are affected at a given time."

Knight expects the project's success to encourage future energy efficiency improvements and green building designs on campus and elsewhere.

Sustainable design
"These projects will also serve as demonstrations of sustainable design for Bucknell students, as an integral component in the curriculum for our environmental studies and engineering students," he said.

Bucknell has worked to find ways to be more energy efficient and environmentally conscious.

In 2008, President Brian C. Mitchell signed the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment and initiated a broad series of steps designed to reduce the University's carbon footprint, including consideration of U.S. Green Building LEED certification for new campus construction costing more than $500,000 and the establishment of the Campus Greening Council.

Last year, the council released the first Comprehensive Environmental Assessment of Bucknell University.

Contact: Division of Communications