Student Environmental Audit of City Hall Suggests Savings, Improvements

Release Date: October 1, 1997

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Too much hot air -- literally -- and two few recycling bins were among the concerns about Buffalo’s City Hall that a group of University at Buffalo environmental-studies students raised recently when they met with Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello.

The students presented Masiello with the results of their comprehensive environmental audit of City Hall, including recommendations for improvements, several of which will save the city money.

The audit, a detailed study of the ways City Hall affects its environment, was conducted this spring at the request of Masiello and the Buffalo Common Council.

It’s believed to be the first time in the U.S. that university students have been asked to conduct an off-campus audit as a public service.

The report also cites some of the positive environmental actions taken by City Hall to date, including the recent retrofitting of light fixtures, which already is saving $130,000 a year in energy costs.

“This project has allowed the university to lay the groundwork for a strong outreach program focused on environmental issues with other institutions in Western New York,” said Joseph Gardella, professor of chemistry and chair of UB’s Environmental Task Force.

“We have already begun to see interest from other municipalities that would like our students to conduct environmental audits.”

According to the report, City Hall workers are, for the most part, supportive of environmentally friendly practices.

However, there are several areas where significant improvements can be made.

Based on interviews with facilities managers and office workers in the 26-story building, and through their own hands-on investigations, the students evaluated the solid-waste stream, purchasing policies and energy use in City Hall.

Wherever possible, they advocated inexpensive solutions and emphasized economic advantages of adopting environmentally friendly practices.

“A large percentage of what’s being thrown out in City Hall could actually be recycled,” said senior Glenn Delfish, who worked on the project.

He noted there is an extremely easy solution. “Trash bins can easily be converted into recycling bins,” he said. “You don’t have to buy anything, you just put new stickers on the bins. It’s a very low-cost solution that will have a high yield.”

The students found that City Hall employees were vocal about the environmental problems they perceive, including the fact that in warmer weather, there seems to be a lot of hot air circulating in offices.

The students found that an inefficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system increases the amount of hot air in the building, fostering use of expensive and inefficient window air-conditioning units and fans in summer and space heaters in winter.

The report states that a centralized heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system would save both energy and money.

The project provided the students an important lesson on the relationship between environmentalism and economics.

According to UB instructor Bruce Kohrn, a Buffalo community activist and president of SBK Environmental Research, that lesson is probably the most valuable.

“Most classes have a carefully organized syllabus that tells them what to do step by step,” said Kohrn. “This class does not do that, by design. Students had to figure out themselves what they needed to do to finish the job, and that was an important learning experience.”

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
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Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
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