FIT Wins 2016 Environmental Excellence Award

At FIT, sustainability is one of our core values and is central to our overall mission. So it was gratifying indeed to receive word that FIT has been awarded a 2016 Environmental Excellence Award by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The DEC states that award winners are “an elite group of committed organizations leading by example and serving as models of excellence within their industry and community.”

The competition was stiff. The DEC only gives out a few awards each year. It received several dozens of applications from a wide variety of organizations, ranging from deep-pocketed corporations to small, community-based nonprofits. The applications go through a robust vetting process. FIT’s sustainability initiatives were commended as being an “outstanding example of environmental, social and economic excellence.”

FIT’s Karen Pearson, Suzanne McGillicuddy, and William Rossi are congratulated by DEC’s chief of staff Peter Walke
FIT’s Karen Pearson, Suzanne McGillicuddy, and William Rossi are congratulated by DEC’s chief of staff Peter Walke

FIT is, of course, renowned for its curricular excellence, industry partnerships, and forward-thinking contributions to the design industry at the national and international level. What is less well-known – and what this award highlights — is how far we’ve come at FIT in making the campus itself more sustainable through our ongoing effort to reduce our total energy use.

It has been a team effort that has included projects large and small. We installed energy-efficient lighting all over campus and put 67 high-efficiency washers and 75 dryers in two dorms, which saved nearly 900,000 gallons of water in 2011 alone and reduced drying times. We installed 17,000 square feet of Green Roof material – which diverts an estimated 300,000 gallons of runoff from the sewer system each year — and painted 10,000 square feet of rooftop in reflective paint. And the Green Roof project is set to expand to cover more than an acre, resulting in more energy savings. We developed a robust recycling program and an innovative composting project.

And that’s just the short list.

For more than a decade, FIT’s facilities planners and engineers have worked largely behind the scenes to replace and retrofit all of the many systems that keep FIT running. Much of this is invisible to us. But it is these big, often unnoticed, projects that have created the big energy reductions.

Those of you who were here in 2008 may remember our “Chiller” plant retrofit. That is the plant that provides cooling for all of the buildings on campus. That retrofit alone reduced our total carbon emissions by 5,000 metric tons per year. Similarly, the energy-efficient retrofit of Kaufman Hall saves 3,500 metric tons and the campus-wide lighting project saves another 1,100 metric tons. We also put “Energy Star” refrigerators in Alumni, Coed, and Nagler Halls; replaced inefficient elevator and escalator controls; and installed an ultra-low- emission generator for the data center.

These efforts have resulted in huge strides in reducing our carbon dioxide emissions: working together, we reduced FIT’s overall carbon dioxide emissions by a remarkable 43 percent. These projects have set us well on our way to meeting the pledge I signed in support of United Nations Climate Negotiations in November of last year to reduce FIT’s total carbon dioxide emissions by a full 50 percent by 2020 from the 2005 baseline.

So as we celebrate winning this well-deserved Environmental Excellence Award, we should also take a moment to acknowledge the work that the entire FIT community has invested in making our campus a shining example of environmental stewardship in action.