How ‘green’ is Griffin Hall?

Since the first semester of operation for Griffin Hall in August 2011, students, faculty and staff of Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics continue to experience unexplained issues within the state-of-the-art construction.

Prolonged problems with lighting, air conditioning and classroom equipment prove that no matter how innovative the technology, no campus building is perfect. These unresolved issues within the ground-breaking building, which was designed for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, have occupants questioning, “Just how ‘green’ is Griffin?”

Rob Knarr, associate director of architecture, design and management, said he received a number of complaints about “lights turning on or off at odd times.” There have also been reports of “one particular room repeatedly experiencing unacceptable warm temperatures at various times during the semester,” Knarr said.
Communication professor Russ Proctor is so baffled by the lingering lighting issues in faculty offices that he submitted a letter of grievance to Knarr’s department. According to Proctor, the main issue is that the overhead lights in the perimeter offices on the fourth floor “stay on all the time.”

“I will turn them off and when I come back after class, they’re back on,” Proctor said. “When I come in at eight or nine in the morning, they’ve been on all night.”
Proctor is not the only professor frustrated by Griffin’s electrical glitches.

Mollie Ralenkotter, a junior public relations major, said she experiences lighting issues regularly during her communication class on the second floor of Griffin.
“We were watching a movie and all the lights came on,” Ralenkotter said. “After about 15 minutes they shut off, but by then the movie was pretty much over.”
Knarr responded to Proctor’s letter by stating that a list of issues was sent to the contractor of the building in “hopes they could solve the mystery.” According to Knarr, the electrical contractor has been reviewing the programming of the lighting control system to try and pinpoint the problem, but it is an ongoing effort.
“Some system components were replaced over the holiday break to address and repair the air conditioning issues,” Knarr said.

These issues have been raising questions as to how “green” Griffin really is. According to Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Larry Blake, Griffin Hall “is roughly twice as efficient as the Student Union.”

Blake said powering the Student Union costs 86 cents per square foot, while Griffin Hall requires only 45 cents per square foot.
“LED lights make a big difference,” Blake said. “They save a lot of energy.”

The current combined utility budget for electricity, air conditioning, heat, water and natural gas since completion at Griffin Hall is set on a three-year plan at $5 million.

Lighting may not be the biggest concern. According to Blake, computers and technology in Griffin consume significantly more power than the lights.
For a building that is geared toward being environmentally friendly, those who frequent Griffin are simply concerned that it is not currently operating at full potential.
“I’m mostly worried about the waste of energy,” Proctor said. “What does it cost us to have this place lit up like a Christmas tree all weekend long?”
Despite its shortcomings, it seems that Griffin Hall is still the most energy efficient building on NKU’s campus.
According to Knarr, whenever construction finalizes at NKU, there is a “punch list” of defective or unfinished items for the contractor to inspect. He says that submitting this list to the contractor within the first year of performance is “a normal part of the construction process.” A list has been submitted to Griffin’s contractor, and the costs for addressing and completing those items are being handled by this contractor.
“We are working diligently to complete the remaining items as quick as possible,” Knarr said.