The Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life received $4,000 from the university’s sustainability fund March 27 to install ceramic films on the windows in the Kappa Alpha Order chapter house.

Fraternity and Sorority Life housing coordinator Heidi Biffl discovered the new technology — nanoceramic window films created by a Texas-based company called Hüper Optik USA — at a conference at this university in the fall and said her team thought it would be worthwhile to apply for a grant.

The clear films block 99 percent or more of UVA and UVB rays and strengthen the windows. They will keep the building cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. 

The window films have been installed with positive results at many other universities, such as Princeton University, Towson University and Pennsylvania State University. Princeton’s campus, which Biffl said bears architectural similarities to this campus, saw year-round energy reduction in buildings with the ceramic window films, and it earned back the money it invested in about a year and 10 months. Rutgers University, which also has installed the product, estimated having a two-year payback period. 

“We have some really old buildings with some really old windows, and we need to retain the architectural integrity,” Biffl said. “So putting in new, very expensive windows might not be the best solution, so this is a nice way to work with the windows we have to make them better.”

Biffl said the installations in the Kappa Alpha Order house will act as a pilot program, and officials will monitor the house’s energy use compared to past use and to that of similar buildings. 

“We looked at this as an opportunity to test the effectiveness. It’s a fairly low-risk project for the committee to fund,” said Office of Sustainability Senior Project Manager Mark Stewart, who serves as a nonvoting member of the committee on sustainability fund decisions.

“If it shows that it has significant energy savings for the house, installing these window films are certainly more cost effective than replacing windows, then it could go a long way for reducing energy consumption on campus,” he said. 

Biffl chose the Kappa Alpha Order house because the fraternity has become actively involved in sustainability on its own. 

“[Kappa Alpha Order] is one of my most sustainable groups that we have on campus, so I wanted to reward them,” she said. “Because they actively behave in a sustainable way, this is a passive thing that could have a nice effect for them.”

This project is in line with the goals of Skutch Montgomery, house manager and sustainability chairman for Kappa Alpha Order. 

“We decided that we were going to do what we could to try to work toward a LEED recognition for the house,” the sophomore environmental science and policy major said. “My goal was to look for a lot of additions and changes that were affordable and wouldn’t affect everyday lifestyle too much.”

Since he created the sustainability chairman position for himself in spring 2013, Montgomery has made the chapter house greener. His first project involved recycling leftover sheet metal at the house, and then he went a step further by creating recycling stations on every floor of the house and a composting station in the basement by the kitchen. 

“We are actually the first house to successfully compost all of our food waste,” he said. “We’re trying to lead the sustainable culture for the Greek community and kind of set an example.”

Under Montgomery’s leadership, the house also recently gained dual-flush toilets and a water refill station on the third floor. Montgomery is still waiting to hear about his own Sustainability Fund proposal to implement a wash station for the fraternity’s dishes instead of wasting more plastic cups and utensils. 

The Student Government Association’s sustainability director Ori Gutin said reaching Greek Life with sustainability efforts is always a goal. 

“We were really excited that they were excited about doing something to promote sustainability in their house,” said Gutin, a sophomore environmental science and policy major. “With Greek life having a huge place on campus, it’s important that we’re reaching them with sustainability, and that they are involved in the campuswide efforts as well.”

Gutin said he thinks this project has potential for broad expansion across the campus.

“If we do have good results, we have a whole campus that some of these buildings might benefit from this,” Biffl said.