One year after opening its doors, Millersville University’s (MU) most sustainable building, the Lombardo Welcome Center, has met its goal in producing more energy than it uses. Millersville will apply for its official zero-energy certification with the Living Future Institute in May.
The Lombardo Welcome Center opened its doors in February 2018, exactly one year after contractors broke ground in February 2017. After a few months of calibration, Sustainability Director Chris Steuer began tracking the building’s energy consumption and production.
From May 2018 through February 2019, the Lombardo Welcome Center consumed 89,782 kWh and it produced an impressive 166,904 kWh. The center set its record for most energy generated in a single day on May 24, 2018 at 1,483 kWh.
On average, the Lombardo Welcome Center uses approximately 294 kWh of electricity and generates about 547 kWh of electricity each day, though the amount can vary considerably based on the season and cloud cover.
“The Lombardo Welcome Center is at the forefront of Millersville University’s commitment to a sustainable future,” says Steuer. “The excess energy produced by the building is used to power other buildings on campus.”
The building harnesses the energy of the sun and the earth. A total of 528 solar panels on the roof generate electricity, 20 geothermal wells drilled 400 feet into the ground heat and cool the building, and several rain gardens treat storm water on-site. An additional 20 solar panels are located on the ground array behind the building so visitors and MU students can view the technology up close. Additionally, solar glass from Spain is located on the south side of the building that also generates electricity, radiant floor heating in the lobby—known as the Steinman Foundation Atrium—improves comfort and saves energy, and energy saving LED light fixtures are used throughout.
Visitors can track the building’s energy consumption and production in real time on touchscreen dashboards in the lobby.
The Lombardo Welcome Center became an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partner in December. This designation was a key factor in the University earning a Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature in 2019.
The building, located at 88 James St., serves as MU’s front door for potential students and their families who begin their campus tours in the building’s sunlit presentation room. The Lombardo Welcome Center houses MU’s Admissions Department, Housing & Residential Programs, the Office of Sustainability and the office for the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
Additionally, Millersville staff have hosted dozens of events throughout the year ranging from MU classes and workshops to local business events and community workshops in the center. Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education facility directors, construction contracting officers and the chancellor have all toured the building. Comcast Newsmakers, Berks County TV and local news stations have all done features on the building and the Sustainability Director has presented on the building at numerous conferences, including Green Building United’s Sustainability Symposium, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s annual conference, the National Association of College and University Business Officer’s annual conference.
“The Lombardo Welcome Center is a busy hub of activity on Millersville’s campus with potential students, faculty, staff and community members using the space for different purposes. Having sustainability front and center in the way this building is run and allowing visitors to engage with that technology through the building’s touchscreens, it is a great teaching tool and really shows the University’s commitment to sustainable practices,” says Steuer.