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By the end of this school year, one of Kirkland House’s guest rooms will become environmentally sustainable, according to Rebecca J. Cohen ’12 and Belen Rodriguez Galvez ’12, the student organizers behind the tentatively named Harvard Sustainable Dorm Project.
The initiative will permanently transform one of Kirkland’s visitor rooms—vacant dorm rooms which are used to house important visitors and official House guests throughout the year—into an environmentally-friendly space that utilizes cutting-edge sustainability innovations.
The project will involve physically outfitting the room in a sustainable manner, such as by using eco-friendly furniture or by installing lights activated by motion sensors. In addition, Cohen said she hopes that the project will be allowed to renovate the actual structure of the dorm room, although she said that she has not yet spoken to House Masters about the possibility of such drastic alterations.
The initiative is the brainchild of Kirkland sustainability tutor Alexios N. Monopolis. With the help of Cohen, Galvez, and several other students, he wrote a proposal for a sustainable dorm room and applied to a grant program offered by the Office for Sustainability. His idea was chosen as one of 14 grant recipients and received $3,000.
“Nobody’s really attacked the dorm room issue before through a sustainability grant,” said Elaine Strunk, sustainability engagement manager. “I think it will be a great example for future dorm projects.”
The grant requires that the project be completed by Apr. 27. When the room is not occupied by guests, members of the Harvard community will be welcome to tour the room, which Monopolis said he hopes will bring greater attention to sustainability issues on campus.
Only two people showed up to the Harvard Sustainable Dorm Project’s first meeting on Monday, but Cohen and Galvez said they expect that more people will join as the project progresses.
Among the ideas proposed at the meeting were floors that generate energy from people’s movement and meters that measure the total energy usage in the room.
Although everything brought up was purely speculative, Cohen and Galvez said that they expect that they will be able to incorporate a number of the innovative proposals into the eventual design of the room.
“Yes, this is a very big project,” Cohen said. But she pointed out that similar projects at other universities “have had very tangible effects on energy usage.”
As part of the grant, the student organizers are supposed to calculate the amount of energy that is saved by the eco-friendly renovations. This stipulation feeds into the Office for Sustainability’s goal of reducing Harvard’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2016.
Cohen and Galvez hope that their completed room will serve as an example of sustainable living in college dorms and that the administration will consider incorporating some of their innovations into renovated dorm rooms during the upcoming House renewal process.
Announced over two years ago, the House renewal project seeks to dramatically overhaul the internal structure of Harvard’s 12 residential Houses. In its 2009 Report on Harvard House Renewal, the House Program Planning Committee cited sustainability as one of its major goals.
Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson said that although she had not heard anything about the sustainability project, she expected that administrators would be interested in learning more about it.
—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at email@example.com.
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