News

University students share findings on sustainability research

The Maharishi University of Management students who addressed the Fairfield City Council Monday on sustainability are, from left, Cris Evergreen, Ashma Gautam, their professor Scott Herriott, Aalok Shrivastava and Susan Misuraca.
The Maharishi University of Management students who addressed the Fairfield City Council Monday on sustainability are, from left, Cris Evergreen, Ashma Gautam, their professor Scott Herriott, Aalok Shrivastava and Susan Misuraca.
/

Students from Maharishi University of Management gave a presentation to the Fairfield City Council Monday night on their research findings on the city’s quest to become more sustainable.

The students were members of a class called Metrics for Sustainable Business, a graduate course through the university’s Master of Business Administration’s Sustainable Business Program. They noticed that the city’s “Go Green” sustainability plan turns 10 years old this year.

The students thought it would be interesting to investigate whether the city could set a new set of sustainability goals for the next 10 years. They sought to find out what it would take for Fairfield to become LEED certified through the United States Green Building Council. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and to become LEED certified, Fairfield would have to meet targets in energy reduction, particularly fossil fuels that contribute to greenhouse gases.

More than 90 cities in the country have become LEED certified, including Ottumwa. However, after careful study, the university students found that it would be too costly for Fairfield to attempt this feat. They discovered that LEED certification might be achievable for large cities, but not for small ones like Fairfield that lacked the expensive software necessary to track energy consumption.

M.U.M. professor Scott Herriott said that, instead of pursuing a LEED certificate, the city should set its own sustainability goals. Moreover, he encouraged the city to keep track of its progress.

“What gets measured is what gets managed,” Herriott told the council.

Mayor Ed Malloy said the city has come a long way in the past decade. It set a goal of reducing community-wide energy consumption by 4 percent, and ended up achieving more than double that at 8.5 percent. Not only that, but in those 10 years the city has conducted energy audits on city buildings to make them more efficient, and replaced inefficient lighting and machinery. The municipal airport and the library sport solar panels now, too.

“Since 2009, we’ve seen 4 megawatts of solar energy production built in this town across residential, manufacturing and commercial sectors,” Malloy told The Ledger, adding that no other city in Iowa could claim as much solar energy production per capita as Fairfield.

About five years ago, budget constrains caused the city to eliminate the position of sustainability coordinator, held at the time by Scott Timm. Malloy said the city has not been quite as proactive on certain parts of its “Go Green” plan since Timm left.

“Scott provided a lot of education to homeowners and building owners, and I’d like to see the city get back to having a coordinator position to continue our progress,” Malloy said. “But the overall progress the community has made in the last 10 years has been strong. I’m pleased with the results.”

Councilor Michael Halley told The Ledger that it makes more sense to simply spend money on a sustainability project than it does to pay for a certificate.

“I’d rather put in an electric vehicle charging station than get a certification,” he said.

Halley said that, if the council does another version of the “Go Green” plan begun in 2009, it would be part of the city’s comprehensive plan, instead of a stand-alone document.