GVSU goes green with rainwater-powered sprinklers

GVL / Courtesy - Metro Connection

GVL / Courtesy – Metro Connection

Drew Howard

One of the many ways Grand Valley State University continues to maintain its environmentally friendly status is through the use of campus sprinklers, which use rainwater, rather than Allendale Township water.

James Moyer, associate vice president for facilities planning at GVSU, explained that the “green” sprinklers operate by using rainwater runoff, which is later recycled back through the irrigation system.

Moyer said there are several different locations on campus where these sprinklers are put to use.

“At the Kelly Family Sports Center (KFSC), storm water from the site is collected into a pond located near the stadium, which is then used to irrigate the football practice field,” Moyer said. “We also have two collection tanks at the 2008 Mackinac Hall addition which irrigate the area around portions of the hall.”

In addition to the KSFC and the 2008 Mackinac Hall addition, Moyer said the environmentally friendly sprinklers are also placed by the James H. Zumberge Hall and the Meadows golf club.

“The James H. Zumberge Hall collects water from both rain and irrigation, which is then recycled for irrigation of the area near the pond, including the library,” Moyer said. “The storm water management system near the television tower collects water, which flows to the golf course and is used to irrigate portions of the course.”

Robert Brown, assistant director for facilities planning, said GVSU has been using rainwater to power its sprinklers for seven years now.

“We have been using rainwater for sprinklers since 2008 when the KSFC was completed,” Brown said. “The concept was developed in conjunction with the design team as part of the LEED effort for the KFSC.”

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an organization devoted to recognizing and certifying buildings that are designed with environmentally friendly intentions.

Many of the buildings on campus – including Mackinac Hall, the KSFC, the Mary Idema Pew Library and the James H. Zumberge Hall – have all been LEED certified.

Brown said that designing buildings on campus in accordance with LEED standards is another reason why GVSU is known for its energy-friendly reputation.

“In addition to employing strategies such as the pond at KSFC, Zumberge and rain gardens to control the outflow of storm water from buildings and parking surfaces, we strive through our LEED efforts to make our buildings as energy efficient as possible,” Brown said. “We look to balance first costs of these efforts while maximizing energy savings. In other words, we attempt to employ strategies that give the university its biggest bang for its buck.”

Similar to the LEED certified buildings, the rainwater-powered sprinklers are ultimately a financial gain for GVSU as it is cheaper than using Allendale Township water, Brown said.

However, while plans for more LEED certified buildings are still underway at GVSU, Brown said there are no such plans to add more rainwater sprinklers.

“There are no other plans at this time that I am aware of,” Brown said. “This however does not preclude us employing such strategies on future projects where the opportunities may present themselves and it makes operational and financial sense to do so.”