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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Pet Peeve #1
February 6, 2008 - 10:12pm

I’m not sure what my pet peeves #2 through n are, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out in time. #1 is pretty clear, though. It’s students (some staff, a few faculty, but mostly students) who open the doors to go into or out of campus buildings by pushing the “handicapped” button. You know, the big square blue one with the picture of a person in a wheelchair?

I don’t mean students who are actually in wheelchairs, or on crutches, or even in a walking cast with a cane. I mean students who walk without a perceptible limp. Students who certainly appear to be in good health. Students perfectly capable of opening the door for themselves, and for little old ladies, and for anybody else within shouting distance. Students who hit the button out of sheer laziness.

I see a lot of this kind of behavior — more than I ever would have imagined — whenever I go wandering around campus. On our campus, it’s most prevalent (or maybe just most obvious) at our library. But I’ve seen it at a lot of academic buildings. Some administrative buildings. Even a recreation center. (Go figure!)

I’ve had conversations with other sustainability administrators, and it appears the problem is widespread. Maybe it’s generational — I don’t know. I don’t really care. It needs to stop.

When someone hits the blue button rather than opening the door the old-fashioned way, two things happen, and neither of them is energy-efficient. First, electricity gets burned opening the fool door. Second, that door gets held open (burning more electricity) for a long enough time that a person who really was in a wheelchair would have a chance to get through it and clear on the other side. That’s far longer than an able-bodied student needs to walk through that door, and heat (or cold) is escaping from the building the whole time.

What to do? Well, we’ve had some discussions. We’ve talked about awareness campaigns. We’ve talked about putting signs up. We’ve talked about putting a proximity card reader on the stanchion, so that the button only works when someone with a special card (someone actually physically disadvantaged) was nearby.

My preferred approach is simple, yet effective. I think we should put a 10-second delay into the system — 10 seconds between the time the button is pushed and the time the door starts to open. For those who really need it, 10 seconds won’t matter at all. For those who are able-bodied, 10 seconds is just long enough for them to stride up to the door and smash their noses into it.

Not that I’d ever want to see anyone hurt themselves, of course!

(I’ll let you know how it works out.)


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