MC student uses grant to update Pioneer House dormitory

MARIETTA – Marietta College students studying environmental science and energy systems now have an opportunity to learn in the place they live.

Senior Brett Notarius, an environmental and international leadership studies major from Buffalo, N.Y., moved into the college’s Pioneer House dormitory this semester as the process is underway to convert it into a place where sustainable living strategies are implemented and showcased.

“The biggest purpose of this house is to allow students to live sustainable on campus and to grow their awareness and knowledge,” said Notarius, a community adviser at the dorm.

Eight photovoltaic solar panels and a solar water system were installed on the roof of the single-story dorm over the summer, using a $25,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation, the charitable arm of Dominion Resources. In the spring, Notarius and fellow senior Luke Badaczewski, an international leadership studies major from Pittsburgh, spearheaded an effort to start a 25-by-50 foot garden behind the dorm to encourage sustainable food techniques as well.

“We both enjoy the outdoors and food, healthy food,” Notarius said.The solar panels are expected to generate about 2,900 kilowatt hours a year.”That’s about 4 or 5 percent of what the building uses, historically,” said Andy Grimm, associate professor teaching in the energy systems program.

“The conservation measures we’re thinking about studying and instituting will of course reduce the energy consumption.”

Just with energy efficient lights, appliances and other technology available today and changes in student habits, Grimm said it’s realistic that power consumption in the dorm could be cut by 50 percent.

“The building is not very energy efficient in terms of its consumption right now,” Notarius said.

Notarius said he’s working with Grimm on signage and posters to place in the dorm to educate students on ways to conserve.

The solar hot water system warms water using solar energy then mixes it in with the rest of the water in the building. Notarius said it heats about 10 percent of the dorm’s water.

Notarius said he’s not sure how many of the 29 students living in the dorm are there specifically for the substantiality factor. It was difficult to get people interested in the idea when it was still on the drawing board, but now that the solar cells have been installed and the garden is active, he expects that task to be easier for the next school year.

“It’s going to take some time to build a group of students who want to live here specifically for that purpose,” Notarius said. “If we are able to gain a group of passionate students … we should be able to do a lot.”

Notarius said students could chart how much waste is generated and try to cut down on that, as well as work to offset the carbon emissions of the building.

There is also room for 10 more solar panels on the roof. Students, faculty and community members can monitor how much power the current panels are generating online at

Grimm said that while there’s a lot of interest in fossil fuels as the shale boom continues to grow in this area, substantiality and alternative energy are important topics as well.

“Even though there’s a lot of emphasis on getting fossil fuels out of the ground, they are going to run out someday,” he said.