College life is unique. You live with and among people of different goals and backgrounds, discovering your place in the world. It’s not unusual for students to get preoccupied with classes and homework, clubs, teams and sports. This is where university faculty, staff and administrators are crucial. They work, often behind the scenes, to keep everyone healthy, happy and safe.

At Lacey’s Saint Martin’s University, one recent improvement isn’t glaringly obvious but would be conspicuous in its absence. Improvements to more than 120 outdoor campus lights have made paths, parking lots, and walkways safer and clearer, and will ultimately save the school money as well.

“As a college campus we’re always looking at security concerns,” says Director of Public Safety Will Stakelin. During the 2017-2018 school year, a student survey indicated an increased level of worry about inadequate campus lighting. A focus group was organized that included members of the Office of Public Safety, Facilities Department, faculty, staff, and student government members to look into the issue. “The students clearly voiced their concern, and the institution quickly responded,” says Stakelin. “This project wouldn’t have happened without the support of President Heynderickx.”

Saint Martins Campus Safety Lighting SST energy savings
The new lighting is phase one of a sustainable, safe, campus-wide upgrade. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

But in addition to safety, lighting updates also needed to be sustainable. This included using materials that “bring down costs while increasing lumens in parking lots and student areas,” said Director of Facilities Philip Cheek.

Phase one of the lighting improvements covered the Grand Staircase student parking lot and those areas surrounding the Marcus Pavilion, softball field, and dormitory residence hall areas. “It’s a whole other level of campus security,” says Stakelin. “This isn’t the end-all be-all, but it’s a crucial step.”

Improvements involved installing new hardware and fixtures and tilting lights to maximize their visibility and reach. The new lights are economical too, putting out 1,000 watts of light for one-third of the cost, with little extraneous light pollution. Path lighting now spreads 10 to 15 feet, giving light to more than just the shrubs directly below them.

Paul Rasmussen is in outside sales at Pacific Lamp and Supply. Their company has been in existence for more than 100 years with a track record of regional success and stability. Rasmussen chose solutions for Saint Martin’s that eliminate routine maintenance, thereby lowering costs long-term. These new LED lights offer 100,000 hours of light and should run for 20 years. They include a 10 year parts and labor warranty and – based on kilowatt hours alone – will save the university approximately $11,000 a year on energy costs. This 66 percent reduction means upgrades will pay for themselves in a little over 5 years.

There are no more timers or manual switches for the lights either, they are now on photo cells and turn off and on automatically. Even this simple luxury saves manpower as the seasons change or Daylight Saving time approaches.

“Puget Sound Energy is proud to partner with our local customers, like Saint Martin’s University, on providing energy efficiency solutions that help them meet their sustainability goals,” says Christine Hoffmann, PSE’s outreach manager for Thurston and Lewis Counties. “PSE has a wide variety of energy efficiency solutions for businesses of all sizes.”

“Saint Martin’s has been making strides towards energy efficiency for years, and this is the latest project for them,” agrees Tyson Schmitt, energy management engineer for Puget Sound Energy. “The student is a key stakeholder in the ecosystem of the university, so their requests should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, just like any other stakeholder. In this case, it made sense because the project saved energy and improved student safety.”

Saint Martins Campus Safety Lighting SST exterior lighting retrofit
Improving lights around sports fields, dormitories, and key campus buildings came at the request of students and was completed over winter break. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University

This project took place over the school’s recent winter break. As students return to campus, the team is already receiving positive feedback. Phase two will update the rest of the outdoor lighting before moving indoors where flickering fluorescent bulbs still strobe some Old Main classrooms.

“From a Benedictine perspective,” says Stakelin, “this community stewardship is a great example of how facilities and security are a partnership. The monastic community is also looking at how they can improve their lighting as well and is hoping to upgrade lights in the Church.”

To read more about the school’s commitment to safety, visit the Office of Public Safety. There you’ll find information on parking permits, school ID cards, emergency preparedness, and campus emergency response plan. Information is available in multiple languages for international students and includes maps, sign-up sheets for first aid and CPR, and training videos. They can be reached directly at 360-438-4555.

Philosopher Allan Bloom once said that: “Education is the movement from darkness to light.” At Saint Martin’s University, respectful partnerships between students and staff make sure the path is well-lit indeed.

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