California Lutheran University students engage in green remodeling

By Alex Wilson 12/24/2008

Students enrolled in a California Lutheran University business and professional communication class are spending part of their holiday break transforming two university-owned houses in Thousand Oaks into environmentally friendly “green houses.”

They’ve been tasked with interviewing the student residents of the homes about how they use energy and the best ways to conserve resources. University administrators put up $4,000 to spend on the houses, which are about 50 years old.

Student Matthew Kufeld says they treated the project as though they were meeting with real clients with money to spend on making their homes more sustainable. “We met with them and interviewed them, and figured out what their energy habits were,” says Kufeld. “From that we worked as a group and took their suggestions and developed a program and a strategy that will help to hopefully reduce energy use and consumption as well as water consumption.”

Some of the changes they’ll be making include installing dimmer switches on the lights, and replacing wasteful bulbs. They’re also replacing the old toilets and shower heads with low flow models. A new recycling center will help the residents separate stuff, and will be designed to make it easy to clean.

They initially thought about installing solar panels and outdoor landscaping that would use less water than the lawns and shrubs there now, but found out that doing those things would greatly exceed their budget.

Communications Instructor Jean Sandlin says they’re putting the skills they’re learning in the class to practical use that can help them be green and, they hope, earn green in the future. “All of the skills that I would be teaching in the class, interviewing skills, negotiation techniques, meeting development, those skills that they need in the business world,” says Sandlin, “I thought this would be a really terrific, practical, hands-on project that the students could be involved in, and develop their skills in business and professional communication.”

Kufeld says that the students in his class also learned more about their own energy use. “Not only are we getting a hands-on idea about what it’s like to work with clients and negotiate with people, but we’re also making each other aware of how active we are in our consumption of energy,” says Kufeld. “Sometimes we’ll leave a room and leave the lights on. Doing this project, I’ve been more aware of my energy consumption personally. So I’ll close my computer and turn it off when I leave the room. So that’s a really neat project to do.”

Another student, named Kailee Loughlin, is hoping that the alterations they’re making will help save energy and be appreciated by future tenants.

“I’m definitely hoping that not only the students living in the house right now get a lot out of it, but hopefully whoever lives in the house in coming years and decades maintains the whole environmentally friendly purpose of our product. And that all the appliances we’re putting in the house will still be put to use even after these people are done with their academic career and no longer live there,” says Loughlin. “Hopefully, whoever lives there next year and the years after that will be aware that this house had a lot of changes to make it more environmentally friendly and that they use that to the best of their advantage.”                                                      

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