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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 16, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 17
University Introduces Its Green Team

Committee charged with improving environmental profile of JHU

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Hopkins shuttles that run on biodiesel fuels, "green" roofs, the use of recycled storm water and training in the use of organic fertilizers are just some of the practices that will be proposed and championed by the new Johns Hopkins University Sustainability Committee.

The 16-member committee, which was officially convened in September by President William R. Brody and had its first meeting in November, will head a universitywide effort to greatly improve Johns Hopkins' environmental profile.

Davis Bookhart, manager of Energy Management and Environmental Stewardship in the Office of Facilities Management, will chair the presidential-level committee that contains members from the nine academic divisions, the Applied Physics Laboratory and the Sheridan Libraries. Bookhart was hired last March to develop sustainability initiatives that conserve electricity, curb water usage and encourage recycling, while creating a general level of excitement about ecological initiatives, at the Homewood, Eastern, Mount Washington, Peabody and Washington, D.C., campuses.

The hire of Bookhart and the creation of this committee are part of the overall JHU Sustainability Initiative that seeks to make Johns Hopkins a showpiece of environmental leadership by demonstrating smart, sensible and creative actions that promote the vision of sustainability.

Bookhart said that with the JHU Sustainability Committee, the university now has a unifying voice for environmentally conscious and clean energy-focused initiatives.

"This is a very important step for us to take. With the committee's charge coming directly from the president, it shows how truly committed this university is to addressing sustainability and making it a top priority," Bookhart said. "The creation of this universitywide committee also makes a lot of practical sense. We are a decentralized institution, and this committee will bring us together as one as we seek to reduce our energy costs and decrease our environmental footprint."

The main goal of the committee, which meets bimonthly, will be to identify areas of sustainability success in each division that can be replicated in others. The committee will also develop projects that can provide savings and improved environmental performance; secure volunteers for special events, such as conferences; and raise awareness of environmental improvements under way or already accomplished.

Some areas of focus for the committee will be energy efficiency measures, water conservation, recycling, storm water management, transportation fuels, alternative commuting options, and outreach and training efforts, such as workshops and seminars on green practices.

Larry Kilduff, executive director of the Office of Facilities Management and a committee member, said an important role of the committee will be involving community members and educating them on sustainability issues.

"For one, we are looking at more ways to solicit and involve the student body," Kilduff said.

Bookhart said that the university has already taken significant steps toward its sustainability goals, such as implementing some green grounds keeping and pest management practices and adopting green designs for renovations or new buildings, notably some of the newer research buildings within the School of Medicine. On a larger front, the university is looking into adopting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building standards for some new and existing buildings. Common features of LEED-certified buildings are the abundant use of natural lighting and solar energy, automated systems that conserve energy, excellent indoor air quality, green roofs that reduce and filter storm water runoff, recycled building materials and the use of products such as paint and cleaning supplies that are environmentally friendly.

Kilduff said that buildings of this nature may result in some features that represent premiums, but those costs are typically recouped many times over in long-term savings. The committee will need to collect more information to determine when and where such projects make economic sense, taking into account the entire "life cycle" of the building.

The university is also nearing an agreement to bring the national Flexcar program to Baltimore by hosting a number of cars on the Homewood campus. The program, which allows members to share vehicles, will feature environmentally friendly hybrid cars. Johns Hopkins' Flexcar program would begin in February and be open to all JHU affiliates and members of the surrounding communities.

Bookhart said that the university is also working on a partnership with a dairy farm in Westminster, Md., that will allow Johns Hopkins to purchase significant chunks of renewable energy from manure-produced methane. The project also will be used as a learning tool for members of the university and will include ways for students to assess related engineering, public health and business issues.

"All of these efforts are based on sustainability, but they are also smart business moves," Bookhart said. "Energy costs are increasing at a significant rate, and by looking into these alternative water and energy resources, we can position ourselves to save a lot of money and help protect the environment at the same time."

Ultimately, Bookhart said, the committee hopes to present Johns Hopkins as a national model for energy-efficient and green practices.

"By sharing ideas and implanting what works, we can develop standards that other institutions can strive toward," Bookhart said. "Every little bit contributes. There's no silver bullet that will bring us more in line with our vision of sustainability. It's a whole portfolio of approaches and practices that will get us there."

For more information about the initiative, including a list of committee members, go to


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