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A New View: the Campbell Hall window retrofit

April 8, 2014 at 7:53 am


By Nate Muckley'15

Beloit College’s many historic buildings serve as a reminder of our shared past, and legacy of education. However, many features of these buildings have gone unchanged for the last century, and are thus poorly insulated and inefficient. In the fall of 2013, Campbell Hall underwent a significant construction project to retrofit aging windows and increase energy efficiency.

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Campbell Hall is the second oldest building on campus. Built in 1854, it was last renovated in 1983 to house the Economics department. However, through the revealing work done by Sustainability Fellows and the retrofitting process, the building showed its age. The windows had hand-hewn beams, horsehair insulation was found in the walls, and some of the windows were held up with spring-loaded sash balances stamped with “1888.” There were large sections of the attic and walls that were completely uninsulated.

The new windows are much more effective at insulating the building. They are thermal-paned, which means that the window is made of two panes of glass separated by a gap. This gap helps to reduce the transfer of heat energy between the inside and outside. The glass itself is made with a covering that reflects radiation. In the summer, this keeps the building cool by reflecting many of the sun’s rays, and in the winter it helps to retain heat within the building.

The project was the result of work by students and faculty, including two sets of research by students in the Sustainability Fellows program. Those students included Richea Smith’13 and Logan Jacobson’13 in the summer of 2012, and Lydia Stensberg’15 and Arianna Cocallas’16 in the summer of 2013. The students carried out their projects in two main parts: finding ways to increase the energy efficiency of the building, and then using an Excel model to run a cost-benefit analysis and determine an internal rate of return, to estimate the return on the cost of replacing the windows.  While this description may be simple, the process was not as straightforward.


“Making the model is more complicated than you might originally think,” said Cocallas’16, an ecology, evolution and behavioral biology major.


Much of the difficulty in creating the model came from factoring in the variable nature of energy prices. Because of the uncertainty in forecasting the price of future energy, Sustainability Fellows developed a range of possible future energy prices. This range of energy prices then was used to project the savings incurred by many interconnected factors that are affected by the improved insulation: reduced energy use of the college, fewer fossil fuels used, and less greenhouse gases generated.

Another difficult yet important aspect of the model was calculating the intangible benefits associated with the installation of more efficient windows and insulation. Examples of intangible benefits include future publicity, improved comfort to students and faculty, and increased aesthetic value. The value of intangible benefits were assigned monetary values based on research by the Sustainability Fellows. With these monetary values, the students were able to factor the intangibles into their economic model.

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Using results generated by the model, a project proposal was brought forward to the Revolving Loan Fund; a student-led initiative that provides the initial capital needed to implement sustainable and economically viable projects that generate savings.  Once the project is implemented, the operational savings, usually energy efficiency savings, are deposited back into the Revolving Loan Fund until the original cost of the project is repaid in full.  The Revolving Loan Fund awarded the project $86,000,  the full cost of the retrofit.

The retrofit in Campbell Hall is one of several plans to implement sustainable features into Beloit College buildings. Peace and Justice House, Alpha Sigma Tau, Interfaith House, and Music House have all received energy audits over the 2013-2014 Winter break to determine areas for efficiency improvements. Beloit is also in the process of hiring a residence hall director to focus on further implementing sustainability into residential life, just another way Beloit College is working to expand efforts to increase energy efficiency and sustainability.