Students visiting the Math Emporium this semester may have noticed the facility looks a little different than it did before winter break.

More than 300 energy-efficient LED light fixtures and HVAC controls modifications were recently installed in the Math Emporium thanks to a student-requested project through the Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability’s Green Request for Proposal (Green RFP) program.

Approximately $194,000 in university funding was allocated toward the improvements. The award-winning Green RFP program has invested more than $1 million for 83 student-generated sustainability projects on the Blacksburg campus since the program launched in 2010.

Not only are the learning spaces at the Math Emporium now brighter, the renovations will also deliver a significant boost to sustainability and operational cost savings.

Prior, the Math Emporium main floor lights came on at once and stayed on 24/7. Newly installed independent control zones with dimming capabilities will help enhance energy conservation during periods of inactivity. Constantly running, the original lights had very short lifespans, requiring ongoing maintenance, labor, and material costs. The new lights will greatly improve these factors.

In addition to enhanced lighting controls, new sustainable fixtures were also incorporated throughout. The previous 2x2 metal halide lights in the main floor used 295 watts of energy. Through the Green RFP project, they were replaced by 2x4 LED lights, which use only 54 watts. With a total of 311 fixtures, the Math Emporium will save approximately 771,000 kWh of energy and $74,000 annually.

Included in the newly modified HVAC system at the Math Emporium are programmable thermostats, which will monitor and adjust temperatures when the building is closed.

The Math Emporium will save the equivalent of 611 tons of CO₂ annually with the new upgrades. The project will pay for itself in just over two years, saving over $90,000 in annual operating costs.

The catalyst for this initiative was senior Daniel Webb who submitted the Green RFP. Webb will graduate this spring with a B.S. in electrical engineering within the College of Engineering. Webb also serves as an energy analyst within the Facilities Department and credits his strong interest in energy management as the impetus for submitting a Green RFP.

Webb coordinated with many members of the university community including leaders from Facilities, Office of Energy Management, Office of Sustainability, and the private sector in crafting a successful Green RFP proposal and coordinating ultimate implementation.

“The Green RFP program is truly unique in that it gives students an unmatched opportunity to trailblaze Virginia Tech’s sustainability efforts and impact the university community for years to come. I’d recommend all students take a look at the program and consider submitting a proposal around an issue they care about,” said Webb.

“Nearly every Virginia Tech student utilizes the Math Emporium during some part of their Virginia Tech career. This signature Green RFP project is a shining example of how student ideas can be transformed into lasting sustainable change on campus,” said Sustainability Director Denny Cochrane.

The Math Emporium lighting and HVAC modifications are just one way the university continues to progress in its efforts toward improved environmental and energy efficiency under the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment. The commitment serves as a cornerstone for guiding the university toward a greener, more sustainable future. It touches on all aspects of university sustainability and energy efficiency across campus operations, engagement, curriculum, and research.

Written by Christy Myers

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