More emails go by, some asking whether schools have disallowed first-year students from bringing cars, and what the results have been. (Yes, and mixed.) Other items announce the construction of new campus housing, much of it aimed at older undergraduates — mostly low-rise, apartment-style. (Particularly appropriate given the trend towards older undergraduates nationwide.)
In terms of limiting greenhouse emissions, students who live on (or very near) campus, and who don’t bring cars to school (or, at very least, don’t drive much), are the best kind of students to have. Food preparation in dining halls is more energy-efficient than food preparation in individual kitchens, it’s true. But the savings from not having students drive to campus far outweighs any savings in the food preparation arena, so if it takes apartments at the edge of campus to lure ever-older students into campus housing, go for it. (BTW, there may be a middle ground in eating clubs or food coops where students can live in apartments and still eat most of their meals out of an efficient, larger-scale kitchen. My impression is that Oberlin does a good job of this — other schools as well, I’m sure. Tell me about yours.)
And low-rise multifamily housing is a perfect project to introduce “passive house” building technology to your campus community. Real-world examples work wonders on people’s perceptions, and a low-rise building is a low-cost opportunity to create one. There’s a now-classic picture of two apartment buildings — one of them built to passive standards — here. (Also useful definitions of a number of sustainability-related terms and technologies.) Note how the outside temperature on the passive building approximates the temperature of the tree branch, which is to say the temp of the outside air. Tough to get more energy efficient than that! Sure would like to get one here at Greenback!