Morrison Will Reopen With a Touch of Green

The two-year renovation of Morrison Residence Hall is coming to a close, and it is expected to reopen in August with a distinctly environmental flair.

The 10-story brick high-rise on South Campus, known to many for its 1960s architecture and lack of air conditioning, will have a solar-powered water heating system, becoming the first campus building to use renewable energy technology. It also will be the site of a new program of theme housing for students interested in environmental issues.

The renewable energy component of the renovation was initiated by students, and their work stands out on Morrison’s flat roof: 179 solar panels totaling 3,183 square feet power the dorm’s solar hot water system.

Annual energy savings from the solar panels are estimated at $11,275, according to Carolina’s sustainability Web site. “The system right now can generate on a good, clear day, as much as 6,000 gallons a day of hot water,” said Warren Jochem ’81 (SPHS), energy conservation manager for the University.

The solar power will be particularly useful in the “slam time” of showering and hot water use in the morning. The building’s steam-powered air heating system, Jochem said, will be used as backup for the solar power.

While Morrison is saving energy, students in the building and across the campus will be able to monitor the building’s energy consumption in real time through a Web interface and a display in the building’s lobby.

“Someone will flush a toilet, get online and see that the energy usage in that part of the building [goes] up,” said junior Jessi Kemp, chair of the environmental affairs committee of student government. Students will be able to reliably see energy savings when lights are turned off or the thermostat temperature is lowered. The building is divided into 12 zones that can be monitored, divided by wing and floor. Using this breakdown, students will be able compete with each other based on energy consumption.

The technology will be an important feature for Morrison’s new Sustainability Learning Community, an environment-oriented theme house.

Theme houses, such as the French, German and Spanish language houses, aim to engage students in learning, organizing programs on the theme and bringing together students with a common interest. Likely programs in the Sustainability Learning Community would be an environmental film seminar and guest lecture series.

A $4 student fee – initiated by Liz Veazey ’04 through a renewable energy fee campaign in 2002 – paid for $184,000 of the cost of Morrison’s solar panels. Students also helped acquire a $137,455 grant from N.C.’s Energy Policy Council of the State Energy Office to help fund the project.

But despite Carolina’s ongoing efforts to become environmentally friendly, the University received a “C” in overall sustainable practices in a report, released January 24, by a nonprofit research organization, Sustainable Endowments Institute.

Carolina received high marks for the administration’s dedication to sustainability, green building, climate change and energy, with low grades for endowment transparency and shareholder engagement.

The study, which was conducted through a combination of surveys and Internet research done by the University and the institute’s staff, looked at the 100 universities in the country with the largest endowments.

The lower grades resulted from the invisibility of the policies and programs that guide the school’s investments of the endowment funds and communication to the individual shareholders about where that money is going, said Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute. “It’s hard to discuss the role of $1.1 billion if you don’t even know where it’s invested.”

“[UNC] is well above average in terms of campus sustainability,” Orlowski said, referring to its commitment to sustainability and classical environmental concerns. But it has not made its endowment investment practices available through the Internet or through easily public ways, he said.

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