Staff Sustainability Champions: Marc Daly, Nick Van Eck, and Bob Wilson

Campus Sustainability Office September 9, 2019

The Staff Sustainability Champions program spotlight recognizes staff across Cornell University who exemplify the Institution's commitment to sustainability and have shown leadership and initiative to catalyze change for a more sustainable campus and planet with their actions - big and small. 

Congratulations to the September 2019 Cornell Sustainability Champions! Three members of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (Cornell AES) were recognized by a colleague for their work innovating energy efficiency improvements in a routine maintenance project last year. 

 Recognizing these champions:

Marc Daly, Equipment Tech IV
Nick Van Eck, Research Support Spec II
Bob Wilson, Equipment Tech IV
Cornell AES
Their colleague from the Cornell AES Anja Timm writes:

"Nick Van Eck, Marc Daly and Bob Wilson showed great initiative to design and build from scratch three growth chamber prototypes that are cheaper, easier to maintain, and that use substantially less energy than conventional chambers. These prototypes take advantage of Cornell’s campus chilled water system.

The chilled water, along with the building heating water, combine to regulate the chamber temperature. That system eliminates the need for refrigerants and compressors. Researchers particularly appreciate how well these new chambers precisely regulate temperatures and how quietly they run – reducing the typical high noise pollution in chamber rooms.

 After years of maintaining and fixing 125+ conventional chambers on campus, the team came up with a vision for chambers that would have a streamlined mechanical design and a much smaller carbon footprint. In 2014, they completed their first prototype with 10 square feet of space – all while keeping up with their regular job duties.

Their reach-in chamber has been running flawlessly ever since, and it uses an astonishing 85% less electricity than one of Cornell’s conventional chambers of the same size.

Two years ago, the growth chamber crew completed a second prototype, a larger walk-in chamber with 100 square feet, using the same straightforward engineering and design savvy. This time, they installed the latest in LED lighting and are seeing even more in energy savings than if they used conventional lighting. 

Last year, they finished a third prototype, a larger reach-in prototype with 30 square feet of space and LED lighting. The team is currently working on retrofitting some of the older chambers, replacing fluorescent lights with LEDs.

Current growth chambers on campus consume between $1,800 and $11,500 of electricity a year – per chamber! The success of these staff-led prototypes now paves the way for wholesale replacements of current chambers that will have a lasting positive sustainability impact for Cornell and for plant research that relies on access to robust, reliable chambers.

For years Nick, Marc and Bob, working in partnership with Charles Duffy, Andy Leed and others, have been true champions of sustainability, and have spearheaded various other projects that make a difference. For example, they built a light bulb recycling station, where old fluorescent lamps from plant growth facilities around campus can be properly sorted and labeled for recycling. To raise awareness among chamber users, they have posted energy consumption signs on every single growth chamber, with instructions on how to reduce their energy use. They have proactively retrofitted many of our current chambers to remove and replace the ozone-damaging R22 refrigerant.

Nick has also been an active and founding member of the Sustainability Action Team at the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station since it was launched in 2008."

Cornell AES Growth Chamber Prototypes
Thank you for all you do!

Who else should be featured? Tell us about another champion: Nominate