In Working Order
Jeff Galli is Senior Manager of Construction Projects and Planning.
Students take greater care with the campus because they have relationships with the staff who maintain it—and because they’ve had to do some of that maintenance work themselves. Environmental proctors “provide the peer pressure needed for students to do their recycling and shut the lights off,” Mr. Williams says, and they help the Physical Plant staff work more efficiently by gathering recycling into central locations for pick up by Mr. Thompson. Groups like the Environmental Club, and activities like the Green Cup Challenge (an energy conservation contest), keep kids’ attention on decisions that matter to the Physical Plant.
Indeed, energy conservation and sustainability are themes of Head of School Curtis’ administration, says Mr. Williams, and those priorities very much align with the reality of running a contemporary school on a historical campus. “Being as green as possible in as many different ways as we can,” he says, is a priority—and another change—since he was a student.
“What you do every day has an impact on the environment, and back 30, 40 years ago nobody thought about it,” he says. Changing a culture to encourage recycling and turn off lights and computers, for example, takes time, but the impact is measurable and significant.
“We’ve seen a dramatic drop in energy use over the last few years,” he says, following efforts to educate the campus community. Conservation measures, which reduce costs now, also contribute to the future preservation of the campus. Savings in one area allow Mr. Williams to invest in energy efficiency elsewhere on campus.
Chris Brown repairs a school year casualty.
Faculty houses, for example, are using considerably less electricity, through both conservation and careful investment from the Physical Plant. The Plant balances the need to preserve the historic appearance of Deerfield’s buildings with the necessary improvements in energy conservation—and do it in a way that accommodates modern family living. One house that was renovated this year had an antiquated layout that included walking through one bedroom to reach the next. “That house from the outside is the same but we totally changed the floor plan inside,” Mr. Williams says. John Downie and his crew gutted the house, moved a stairwell, and winterized an old porch. Upgrades for energy efficiency, such as insulation and new windows, are a standard part of the process these days. “Because of all the work we did, we actually got an Energy Star rating,” Mr. Williams adds. Considering that the crew wasn’t actively pursuing this difficult-to-achieve rating, it’s quite literally a “gold star” highlighting the talent and teamwork behind Deerfield’s Physical Plant.
That same creativity and talent has maximized investments in new buildings and systems as well. When the refrigeration plant at the hockey rink needed work, Mr. Williams says the Physical Plant staff knew that the Fitness Center would soon be renovated, so they had the idea to divert the hockey rink’s refrigeration power to the Dining Hall and Fitness Center for air conditioning during the summer months. And during the winter, the excess heat generated by the ice-making equipment is used to melt snow on the sidewalks adjacent to Field and McAlister dormitories—reducing workload and improving both safety and comfort for the students.
Katie Salinetti tidies the grounds.
“As it turned out it, it was a huge money-saver,” Mr. Williams says. The conservation conversation extends all the way into the classroom when Gary Grybko, Deerfield’s HVAC Supervisor, visits science classes. “I give them formulas so they can calculate what things cost heating-wise and electricity-wise,” he says. “Then they can judge how they can save or not save.”
Some fixes Mr. Grybko’s shop can help with—like replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient compact fluorescents. Other changes depend on student behavior, like closing windows and keeping thermostats set properly. Mr. Grybko takes Brendan Creagh’s science students on a tour of the boiler plant so they can see the machines responsible for generating steam for heat and hot water; both men believe it’s good for students to see for themselves what it takes to provide hot water for showers, to keep study areas comfortable, and to heat dorms.
At the end of summer, and after all the dust settles, Deerfield’s tradesmen, grounds crew, and custodial staff finish up strong: job sites are restored so carefully that returning students and faculty double-take on their way to class, asking “Was that here last year?” of new additions on campus. Other projects will go entirely unnoticed in the short term: they are the long term improvements that the Physical Plant makes to improve the efficiency and comfort of campus, to ensure that students and faculty can focus on their studies, and to ensure Deerfield’s place in the world for generations to come.
Amy Mayer contributed to this story. Amy is a freelance writer in Greenfield, MA.