The Big Space Crunch

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Photo credit: Jonathan Rausseo

*Click on image for a larger view

I know we are now in 2011 but I did want to take a quick look back to 2010. It turns out 2010 was in fact a great year for sustainability on campus (see the last post: Once Upon a Time...), but there will always be more challenges to face.

I was walking through the office today and I overheard some of the office students talking about space on campus. Okay... maybe I was eavesdropping but that's besides the point. We got into a little conversation about the campus space crunch. On one side having a compact campus is good because it helps us use our space more efficiently. On the side, a crowded campus means that there always seems to be a lack of space to so things.

As the campus population grows this problem is going to get worse before it gets better. The University can only build a certain number of new spaces at a time. And with the increase in space comes an increase in resource consumption (more energy, more water, more garbage).

In 2010 we reached a bunch of milestones. Between 1974 and 2010 the campus grew by 161% in space and 123% in the number of students (even more if you want to count staff and profs). Waste, greenhouse gases, and water consumption (since 1993 for water) are all down by more than 20% respectively. The only black mark is energy consumption; it increased by 0.4% (not bad considering the campus almost tripled in size).

I guess my message is this, be careful what you wish for. More space usually means bad things for the environment. Although the University has been doing a pretty good job at keeping our resource consumption down, there comes a time when you can't keep up anymore. Hopefully we aren't there yet.


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