By Sarah Watson
Catlett Residence Hall, which was completed and unveiled this summer, boasts amenities all students wish for — a dining hall, spacious rooms, and a view of the Iowa River. But what some may not realize is that the new building is extremely energy efficient.
Unlike most residence halls on the UI campus, Catlett, and the second-newest residence hall, Petersen, are outfitted with “green outlets.” These outlets stay on for as long as there is movement in the room and can save electricity by sensing when rooms are vacant.
Although these plugs were successfully implemented in Petersen, there were still problems with them — something Jeff Aaberg, the director of facilities and operations for UI Housing & Dining, knows well.
“We’ve had people mistakenly plug the fridge into it. Well then, the occupancy sensor, it doesn’t sense anybody coming in and it shuts off, and it shuts off that green outlet and shuts off the refrigerator,” Aaberg said. “We had a few of those, but again, very few because the residence staff does a good job of letting people know. I haven’t heard anything from Catlett yet.”
The green system also controls the lights in the room, and it will adjust the room temperature when the sensor detects the room is empty.
“We have a Big Ten conference for all the facilities people, and my conversations with them, nobody has tried tying the heating and cooling into that,” Aaberg said. “We are one of the first, if not the first, in the Big Ten to do that.”
As with all new buildings, there are always a few bugs to work out, especially in a building with so much technology. On Wednesday for several hours, residents couldn’t turn their lights off.
“My roommate left the room for classes, and the lights turned on when she shut the door, which was really odd,” freshman Lucy Liautaud said. “I would try to turn it off, and none of them would turn off. I decided to see if it would auto turn off, and they ultimately did, hours later.”
Catlett isn’t the only residence hall with environmentally friendly amenities.
Petersen, which opened in fall of 2015, received a LEED gold award from the U.S. Green Building Council for meeting standards in Site/Location, Water, Indoor Air Quality, and Pollution Source Control, according to the UI Housing & Dining website.
“The main difference between Catlett and Petersen is that Petersen uses a heat-recovery chiller to run the building’s heating and cooling system [which is a big-point item],” said Von Stange, the assistant vice president for Student Life and senior director of Housing & Dining, in an email to The Daily Iowan.
Stange said that in Catlett, Housing & Dining uses the university’s steam and chilled-water plants to heat and cool the building.
“We want to make sure the university is successful in that goal and create sustainable ways to reduce facility cost,” he said. “We want to make sure we are good stewards of student dollars.”