By Ritik Shrestha ’22
Environmental Science often ranks as one of the most popular majors at CC. For students considering this as a major, taking EV212, Energy: Environmental Thermodynamics and Energetics provides a chance to take the material learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life problems.
The class is taught by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Lynne Gratz, with bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan, Gratz has been at CC for three-and-a-half years and has recently taken the lead on this class after the retirement of Professor of Physics Barbara Whitten. What makes EV212 so special is the project portion where students have a chance to use what they learn and apply it to houses in the Colorado Springs area in order to make them more sustainable.
In prior years, the students worked on houses that were owned by the college to hone their energy saving skills by performing tasks such as blowing loose insulation into the attic, sealing basement spaces, weather stripping the roof, replacing light bulbs, and making other changes to reduce heat loss and increase efficiency. While this was initially sufficient, Gratz soon realized that there weren’t enough college-owned houses that fit the needs of the project. This shortage was solved through an agreement with the Ivywild neighborhood south of downtown Colorado Springs.
Students are now able to go into houses in the surrounding community and apply the same skills in a way that benefit others outside of the school community. While the EV 212 students have worked on only one house so far, their work has generated a lot of interest from other residents of that neighborhood.
Following the results of the first run-through, many home-owners have requested the services of the EV212 class, so much so that a waiting list has formed. “While I wish that we could help out everyone in the neighborhood, it is a very time consuming and the entire process to upgrade one house takes an entire block” said Professor Gratz when asked about the success of the project. Because of time constraints, Gratz assesses the neighborhood ahead of time to find the perfect match so that students can make plans for improvements on the house during at the start of the block.
The results in efficiency are powerful. For example, last year the students spent about $750 to add insulation into the basement and attic of a 1,024 square-foot house. It was then calculated that the homeowner would save $160 a year as a result of these changes, with a payback time of 4.5 years. Studies show that just one LED light bulb can save more than $100 over its lifetime. Other tests by the students show that adding wall insulation can save up to 75 percent of heating costs. This all adds up over time and for members of less affluent neighborhoods, the extra money can make a huge difference.
This course requires a great deal of mental and physical work. Days spent doing complex math and calculations are often followed by hours filled with hard manual labor working on the housing project. For more information on the class and a video on the project, visit the Environmental Studies website.