Winona State renovates dorm bathrooms as part of LESS plan

Sophia Sailer, Editor-in-Chief

The plumbing in the Sheehan and and Quad Residence Halls have been renovated as part of Winona State University’s LESS Initiative. LESS, standing for Leading Energy Savings and Sustainability, is a $12 million campus-wide, paid-from-savings energy conservation and sustainability project.

Nathan Engstrom, the campus sustainability director, explained the need for such a project came from various avenues.

“LESS is listening to strategic goals from the Minnesota State system office and WSU to decrease energy, water use and carbon emissions. We also need to address deferred maintenance and upgrade and modernize our facilities; We need to reduce ongoing maintenance and operations costs. [We also have a] desire to improve the comfort, aesthetics and performance of physical spaces across campus,” Engstrom said.

Engstrom also explained these plumbing changes currently being made in Main Campus dorms will also be a major money saver in the future.

“The project will save WSU $26 million dollars over the project’s lifetime,” Engstrom said. “The project is financed on a paid-from-savings basis through a lease purchase agreement. These annual lease payments are structured to be less than the annual guaranteed savings.”

Director of Housing & Residence Life, Paula Scheevel, explained students are not involved in the consultation process of routine maintenance on buildings that occurs over the summer break between school years. However, students are involved in determining what exactly may need the most attention in dorm maintenance.

Housing work closely with Winona State’s Facilities Services to determine what areas of the residence halls need repair, maintenance tasks or replacement of equipment, Scheevel said. Typically, students and staff throughout the residence halls submit work orders throughout each school year, which helps identify what may need updates and repairs.

This summer, no major renovations will occur, Scheevel said.

“No renovations [to residence halls] this summer, only repairs and replacements. Richards Hall’s roof will be getting a replacement, Prentiss-Lucas & Haake Halls will have new student room flooring and Sheehan Hall will have new painted hallways,” Scheevel said.

Engstrom said the decision to move forward with the LESS Project was largely based off of Winona State’s students, who are involved in making such decisions.

“The project was vetted through WSU’s Sustainability Committee, which includes student representatives, and prior to construction a number of mockups to test proposed lighting and water conservation systems were conducted that solicited feedback from all members of campus,” Engstrom said.

While renovations were being made in residence hall bath- rooms, torn-out toilets sat out- side for awhile.
While renovations were being made in residence hall bat rooms, torn-out toilets sat outside for awhile. (Sophia Sailer)

Faye Lewis, a public relations student at Winona State who lives in campus housing, had a positive reaction to the bathroom renovations.

“I think that the manual flush toilets are far better than the automatic. Automatic toilets have a tendency to randomly flush, which wastes water,” Lewis noted.

Engstrom is excited about Winona State’s dedication to energy efficiency and what the LESS Project will do for the institution energy-wise, but also as a landmark achievement.

“The Leading Energy Savings & Sustainability project will mark WSU as being the Minnesota State System’s most energy efficient university. It will also feature the largest solar energy system on
any Minnesota State campus,” Engstrom said.