BSU: Historic Driscoll Hall to go "off the grid"

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jun 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-01 17:29:09-04

A transformation is in store for one of Boise State University's oldest buildings on campus, one that in the long run could dramatically reduce overhead costs and start a nationwide trend.

Thanks to a new building on campus, Driscoll Hall, built in 1951, will soon be vacant. It's always served as a residence hall.

The historic buildings new future could serve as a model that allows for the perfect mix of life-long educational lessons and clean energy-themed sustainability.

"This isn't just a technology solution. The technology is there, we could do that tomorrow if we had enough money," says John Gardner, a professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering. "But, to make it affordable, make it practical... we have to engage the students."

Solar arrays and batteries will be installed to produce electricity for the building with a natural gas back up generator making it so the living quarters will be completely off the grid. Engineering students will monitor and track production, along with suggesting possible improvements. Those living there will manage their own utilities and be forced to be more mindful of how they consume energy.

"It's not a programming thing, not an event that you can go to," says Dean Kennedy, the director of housing and residence life. "It is the lifestyle of how you exist as a human being and what does that mean on your impact on the planet."

The light bulb went on for Gardner when he saw an opportunity to create a trending micro-grid, which is a facility or campus supported by an alternative energy source but is still connected to the grid. He's just taking the concept one step further, hoping it will catch on.

"This is not just a really nice place for students to learn and live," Gardner says. "It's also an example for our campus and for the country."

In August, the Honors College will move into their brand new building and residence hall.  The new "sustainability residence hall" should be up and running in the Fall of 2018.