Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The North Campus Residential Expansion project will now be equipped with solar panels.

February 26, 2020

North Campus Construction Continues with a Focus on Improving Sustainability

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The North Campus Residential Expansion project has been made a bit more green, thanks to an initiative that will see new buildings equipped with solar panels.

Cornell recently made a purchase agreement with GreenSpark Solar, a New York-based solar panel provider — a decision that “represents a tenfold increase in the on-campus rooftop solar capacity,” according to the University.

The University’s current on-campus solar energy output amounts to only 0.09 megawatts, but the new buildings’ rooftop solar panels will produce about 1 megawatt of energy annually —  equivalent to about 155 homes’ worth of electricity. The solar panels will provide for 35 percent of the residential expansion’s energy needs, according to the University.

“These buildings will require the equivalent of only about 1.4% of today’s total campus district energy (in the form of chilled water, hot water, and electricity) despite representing over 4% of Cornell’s utility-connected campus in terms of net square feet of building space,” wrote Chris Davenport, project manager for Facilities and Campus Services, in an email to The Sun.

According to Davenport, the energy use of these buildings is about “30% better than the latest State Energy Code standards.”

The solar construction project fits into the University’s broader goal of aiming to be carbon neutral by 2035, joining a series of other ambitious renewable energy initiatives, such as earth source heating, a technology that could leverage geothermal power beneath Cornell to power campus.

Despite the energy conservation ambitions of the expansion, some of the inevitable consequences of its construction have not escaped the notice of current North Campus residents. Many first-year students living in Jameson Hall, Mews Hall and the Low Rises have bemoaned the noise pollution and inconveniences that have resulted from the construction.

“I sleep with earplugs in anyway, but I know a lot of kids who are woken up by [the construction] every morning,” said Will Hasapis ’23, a Jameson Hall resident.

Even with the noise, students agree that the construction of new dorms is an overall improvement for Cornell.

“I’m glad that students might be able to avoid the exorbitant costs of collegetown housing,” said Hyun Do Cha ’20, who also lives on North Campus.

According to Davenport, the project is still on track to meet its original construction goals, with Site One, which is located near Robert Purcell Community Center, set to open during the fall 2021 semester, and Site Two, near Appel Commons, set to open during fall 2022.

In terms of road and sidewalk disruptions, the path behind the low rises and Mews, which has been closed since fall 2019, will remain inaccessible until the project is completed in 2022.

Additionally, according to Davenport, in spring 2021, Program House Drive will be closed entirely for a rebuilding, while during summer 2021 Jessup Road will be subject to regular roadwork.