This is a profile I wrote for Quest Magazine at the College of Idaho.
After a record oil price spike, Quest sits down with Andy Erstad, principal at Erstad Architects in Boise to discuss the College, the future, and the state of environmental building.
Construction fences and equipment have been sprouting up around campus so far this year. With the remodel of Simplot completed and the remodel of Hayman underway, it’s beginning to look like a much newer campus. Andy Erstad is one particular charioteer of change: “I’m excited that the school has taken a very proactive approach to upgrades and management of resources that go into operating the facilities.”
There have certainly been exogenous factors in the campus’ push towards sustainability. Erstad posits that “The run-up in the cost of energy really highlighted the potential beneficial outcomes of being smart and doing conscientious smart planning both in master planning of the campus facilities and in the actual building design and implementation.” There are real costs associated with operating a campus, especially, laboratory buildings and science buildings. According to Erstad, “the costs are doubling”.
The seeds of sustainable practices have been germinating for a long time, however. Erstad notes that “you have this sort of industry movement already going on and then you have this exclamation point of a very real energy spike (cost spike).” The benefits of building new buildings or renovating existing ones are often more than simply aesthetic. Erstad thinks “people started to say ‘Wow, you know we’ve been hearing about this all these years, now we get to see the real impact of it.’ And where a building designed and built fifteen years ago may cost a hundred thousand dollars a year to run in energy and utility costs. That same building built today may take fifty-five or fifty thousand dollars to run.”
Aesthetics and experiences do matter though, and Erstad believes that there are habits that can change to both assist us fiscally but also to improve our relationships with the land. One such way is “Utilizing [campus as an] outside living classroom if you will. And that type of approach while it’s very sustainable and green…is also a fabulous teaching tool to bring college students, faculty, and staff in line or aware of their environment and aware of opportunities to be stewards of the land and stewards of the facilities.”
There are certainly financial constraints involved in bringing the college forward and more towards sustainable practices. Erstad notes that “you couldn’t really take every single building and afford to do a complete sustainability overhaul…on each of them due to cost. As the college is looking at upgrading and making improvements to various buildings, they are seizing these opportunities to do the right thing. Increase the efficiencies, add different types of lighting: The new lighting technologies, the new energy management technologies, and the new heating and air conditioning technologies where they can.” The college has been particularly forward-looking in this according to Erstad, who notes “as every opportunity arises the College has been taking those situations and trying to increase the energy efficiency, increase the mechanical and electrical efficiencies, get a leg up wherever they can.”
Erstad is happy to share his enthusiasm for the way that the college has handled its campus. “They’re seriously focused on doing the right thing…I appreciate that mindful of the budgets and the cost implications I think it’s still the right thing to do….In the long run, the savings are tremendous, and particularly in college buildings, classroom facilities, science laboratories which have a huge energy consumption component. This Is one of the ways that the school takes a very responsible role in leveraging every dollar that they have to the highest possible extent.”