Atlantic Cities

Could LEED Kill the College Dorm Mini-Fridge?

Could LEED Kill the College Dorm Mini-Fridge?
greeneyzblu2/Flickr

Owning a mini-fridge in college is a rite of passage. But one school is killing off that tradition for the sake of the planet ... and for higher LEED ratings.

The Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts has banned mini-fridges in its new residence hall. The dorm was designed by architecture firm Perkins+Will, and was mandated by the state to boast a LEED Silver certification. The firm is actually anticipating a LEED Gold rating after audits are complete, largely because of its impressive energy efficiency

And doing away with the mini-fridge deserves partial credit for that. "Of all the things students plugged into the walls, and leave plugged in, micro-fridges are by far the biggest energy consumer," says David Damon, an associate principal at the firm. So instead, the school installed full-size, Energy Star fridges in every suite of four to six students.

Damon says this move is far more cost-effective. But how much energy does the new policy actually save?

According to Yanel de Angel, a senior associate at Perkins+Will, losing mini-fridges will save 4 kbtu of energy per square foot per year. Cost-wise, that'll save the school about $16,000 per year. The $53,000 spent on suite fridges will be paid back in three years.

That may not seem like much. And de Angel acknowledges that other efforts will make a bigger impact in the building's energy savings. According to the firm's energy analysis, the new "geo-exchange system" -- a series of underground wells that balance temperature -- and improved insulation will save more energy per year. But banning mini-fridges comes at a close third, out of eight total energy-saving strategies employed in the building.


The new George A. Weygand Hall at Bridgewater State University (Anton Grassl/ Esto)

So far there have been no complaints from Bridgewater students, who'd been educated on the exact trade-offs of the new policy. According to Damon, this is the first time a client has decided to ban mini-fridges for energy-saving purposes, but the firm will be pushing this strategy in future projects.

Top image: greeneyzblu2 on Flickr

Jenny Xie is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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