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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Ford Hall makes Trafton Science Center one of state's 'greenest'

Helping environment, saving money

The new Ford Hall addition to Trafton Science Center is one of the 'greenest' buildings in the MnSCU system.

By Robb Murray, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 7/28/2008]

Photo by John Cross
Ford Hall
The new addition to the MSU's massive Trafton Science Center has many 'green' aspects to it.

It's the behemoth, the monster, the building that not only represents the largest building project in the history of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, but also plays host to the largest number of credits of any MnSCU building.

Now, with completion of its addition just around the corner, the Trafton Science Center soon will be one of the greenest buildings in MnSCU, as well.

In a project that cost more than $20 million, the Trafton addition is a big one. The total cost of the project was bumped up nearly $1 million because of so-called "green" measures implemented.

But in the realm of "green," money spent up front usually results in money saved in the long run.

In MSU's case, the extra million spent on the Trafton addition will be made up — mostly by lower utility bills — in fewer than five years.

"We get the money back in 4.6 years," says Larry Kohanek, construction manager at MSU. "We actually recover our investment."

Governing MSU's efforts is legislation passed in 2004 — called the Buildings, Benchmarks & Beyond Project — that requires a certain level of energy efficiency in construction of new state buildings.

Photo by John Cross
John Frey standing in the uncompleted Ford Hall.
Recently retired dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology John Frey stood in one of the hallways along the south side of the building. The design allows for natural light to be harvested and used in the nearby classrooms. Frey, who retired last month after 37 years at MSU, is credited with overseeing the Trafton building project.

One of the biggest cost savings on Trafton comes from a device on the roof that acts as a sort of radiator, extracting heat from air that normally would simply be vented into the atmosphere.

It works like this: Picture a giant fan with air flowing one direction through the top half of it, and air flowing the opposite direction through the bottom.

On the bottom half is fresh air from outside. On the top half is air sucked in from chemistry hoods in the labs below.

As the fan's blades swing through the top half of the airflow, they collect the heat from the air being sucked out of the labs. When those blades swing down through the fresh air, they heat the air that ultimately gets sent back to the classrooms.

This system makes up about 15 percent of the cost savings.

About 25 percent of the cost savings comes from the installation of motors that run only as much as they need to.

Classroom lighting will be much different in the new classrooms. The light bulbs are high-efficiency fluorescent bulbs, and the switches inside the classrooms allow instructors to supply as much or as little light as they want to the room.

In the hallways along the south side of the building, the design allows for natural light to be harvested and used in the nearby classrooms.

Because of the green measures implemented in the Trafton addition, the building's annual energy cost would be $246,838. Without the green measures, the annual cost would have been $429,551, providing an annual savings of $182,713.

"It's going to save us a ton of money," he said. "And that's the bottom line."

Recycling, by the way, is also part of the plan. So far, of all the waste material produced by the project, 76 percent has been recycled.

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