PCC: Leading the Pack in Sustainability and “Green” Practices
Long before “going green” was the hip thing to do, Pasadena City College began the process of becoming more environmentally responsible and using fewer natural resources. From cutting back on energy use to streamlining its architecture and landscaping, the college has made strides in every way to become a greener player in the global community.
PCC’s ongoing effort to reduce its environmental impact has made it an exemplary institution in the state of California and across the nation. In fact, the college has picked up half a dozen awards honoring its good deeds from local and national admirers, including a national award in Outstanding Climate Leadership from the American College and University Climate Commitment and the Model Community Achievement award from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
A Transformative Decade at PCC
For the past decade, PCC has been gradually transforming its campus, curriculum, and policies to reflect its deep commitment to the environment. One of the college’s early efforts involved installing Capstone 60-kilowatt turbines to heat the swimming pool. The project replaced traditional pool heaters with remarkably efficient and clean natural, gas-fired turbines that not only heat the pool, but produce 120,000 watts of electricity simultaneously in a process called co-generation.
Another installation utilizing co-generation is the bank of four turbines in the Bonnie Avenue Parking Structure. The turbines produce 240,000 watts of power, and the waste heat is converted into chilled water that helps cool campus buildings through an absorber chiller.
Over the past decade, several acres of asphalt on campus have been removed and replaced with walkways, sitting areas, landscaping, water features, and other areas meant to make the campus more conducive to learning. During this time, more than 500 trees have been planted, transforming PCC into a student-oriented campus, rather than a vehicle-oriented one.
PCC was the first institution in the city to install “Thermal Energy Storage” systems. This technology uses electricity at night, when statewide demand is lower, to produce vast quantities of ice. The ice is then melted during the day, when electricity demand is at its highest, to satisfy air-conditioning demands. One system was installed when the Shatford Library was built in 1994, and another was installed to serve the Community Education Center on Foothill Boulevard in 1995.
Additionally, PCC has replaced aging and inefficient central chillers and heating units with highly efficient modern ones, installed computer systems that control energy and chemical usage, and refurbished and upgraded rooftops and windows where needed.
Even though PCC has already made tremendous changes to lessen its environmental impact during the past 10 years, the institution refuses to rest on its laurels. Transitioning from fluorescent to LED lights, offering students economically and environmentally viable alternatives to driving to campus, and installing cutting edge nanotechnology are just a few more ways that PCC continues to go greener each and every day.
Seeing the Light: Transitioning from Fluorescent to LED Lights
Earlier this year, PCC began working with Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) to partner in a massive fluorescent-to-LED light conversion project. PWP recently completed an engineering and feasibility study to determine total costs and expected electricity usage reductions.
Whereas fluorescent lamps typically last for two to three years, depending on use, LEDs have a life expectancy of up to 50,000 hours – typically 10-12 years. LEDs produce a fraction of the heat created by fluorescent lights and virtually no heat compared with mercury vapor, sodium, metal halide, and traditional incandescent bulbs.
The estimated savings in carbon dioxide emissions is more than 5,600,000 pounds per year – equal to the carbon effect of planting 1,100 acres of trees per year. The use of mercury is very harmful to the environment, and mercury vapor in even small quantities can cause serious health problems when inhaled. This technology will do away with the need for mercury on the campus and will make PCC a healthier place.
MTA, PCC Partner to Offer Students Affordable Transit Passes
PCC and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have partnered over the past two years to offer low-cost public transportation passes to 8,800 students each semester. The TAP pass allows full-time students enrolled in at least 12 units to ride the Metro for $30 per semester. Students can visit PCC Student Business Services in Room B203 to purchase a pass.
To ensure the program’s success, PCC will continue to provide shuttle service to the Metro Gold Line in Pasadena to encourage students to use public transit.
The TAP is valid on Metro buses, Metro Rail lines, and Foothill Transit seven days a week. Students can use the pass for all other transportation needs, including work, shopping, or recreation. Because they are saving transportation costs, students may be encouraged to take additional college units and can invest the free travel time public transit affords them to study or rest.
Pasadena City College Taps into Greener Energy Source with Nanotechnology
PCC was outfitted with energy-saving nanotechnology by AMAX Incorporated, a locally-based technology research firm. The new technology, also known as SEBGA energy wraps, was installed in every campus building with a heater or broiler in early 2010. The Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium did not receive SEBGA energy wraps in order to serve as a control in the energy saving experiment.
The SEBGA energy wraps fiscal impact has been staggering. The natural gas bills for the month of October 2010 showed a 43 percent reduction in overall cost, which equated to $14,175.62 in savings.
PCC was chosen as one of the first recipients of SEBGA energy wrap technology by one of AMAX’s officers. “Every day after school, he drives his son to the PCC pool for the Swim Pasadena program,” Yuan explained. “PCC’s large swimming pool inspired him to work with the college to conserve energy usage on campus.” Although the SEBGA nanotech wraps are already installed in several locations across North American, PCC is the first public school to use them.
For the past decade, AMAX has privately funded nanotechnology research and development. After years of work, the research finally bore fruit, and the SEBGA energy wraps became available on the market about five months ago.
PCC Recognized as a Leader in Sustainability
PCC walked away with two awards for sustainability at the 2011 Higher Education Sustainability Conference this past July held at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, the conference is the only one of its kind in the state that brings together the University of California, California State University, and the California Community Colleges, as well as private colleges and universities both as organizers and attendees.
PCC received a nod for its “Innovative Waste Reduction,” along with UC Davis and CSU Chico. The college was also recognized for “Campus-Community Partnerships” for its Institution Pass Program. Other awardees in that category included CSU Monterey Bay for its Chinatown Renewal Project and UC Riverside for its Cultivate “R” Space.
Additionally, PCC was honored by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) with the Clean Air Award. The award honors visionaries in the region who have helped in the fight for clean air through innovation, leadership, and exemplary service.
PCC was selected in the category of “Model Community Achievement” for its green policies on campus, including environmentally sound energy usage, encouragement of public transportation, and lighting upgrades.
Other honors bestowed upon the college include the 2011 Leadership Award from Green California and the 2010 Outstanding Climate Leadership honor from the American College and University Climate Commitment.
PCC is committed to fully serving the community’s educational needs and satisfying its responsibility to the Earth and to the future generations of its inhabitants.