Samantha Tarnasky ’09 completed a senior project that identified ways to cut energy consumption in half at the Williams College hockey rink. “This project was great because it let us go after a big chunk at once,” says Todd Holland, energy conservation project manager for the college’s Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. With support from a Zilkha Center internship program, Corey Benson (class of 2011) spent the summer of 2010 developing an implementation plan for Tarnasky’s research proposal. The college hired Clark and Green Architects to design the renovations in partnership with Gary Guerin, associate director for athletics operations, the hockey and tennis coaches, the facilities department, and the staff at the Zilkha Center.
Coupling the energy upgrades with a broader renovation plan for the 60-year-old facility—including adding new locker rooms, flooring, and coaches’ offices—was a major selling point for the athletics department. “They realized they could improve the performance of the facility and save thousands of dollars each year in utility costs,” explains Stephanie Boyd, director of the Zilkha Center.
With all upgrades in place, the electricity savings from the first four months of 2013 came to 148,411 kilowatt-hours. Williams is on track to meet or exceed the estimated annual savings of 230,000 kilowatt-hours. Significantly, every energy-efficient decision that was made had a positive impact on the games played in the facility. “The improvements significantly improved air quality, the ice is smoother and more consistent, the building is colder, and the lighting is sharper,” says Boyd.
“The first thing we noticed was the improvement to the lighting,” agrees Mark Lyons (class of 2013), 2012-2013 men’s hockey co-captain. “Quality lighting makes a huge difference in a high-speed game like hockey.”
Next, Williams Athletics is pursuing LEED green building certifications, on-site solar, and improved waste diversion. “We will begin construction on a new football facility, which is targeted to be LEED Gold-certified,” Boyd says. “We are exploring thermal solar or solar electric systems, or both, for the top of the gym and pool, and we are looking into a new dehumidification system for the pool.” Through efforts of the athletics and grounds departments, the college has also been improving recycling infrastructure at athletic venues. Boyd explains that athletics projects are ideal for sustainability work because they engage both the student body and alumni supporters.