Installation’s impact in question
Since the “Light of Reason’s” opening on Sept. 10, community members have raised questions regarding the environmental impact of the installation, which consists of 48 bulbs that are lit from sunset to sunrise every night.
On Oct. 14, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel held an admissions volunteer meeting for tour guides to talk about how to properly discuss safety and security on campus with visiting Brandeis families, according to an email obtained by the Justice. He asked admissions volunteers to share difficult questions that they have encountered, and several said that the topic of the “Light of Reason” and its environmental impact have come up.
According to the email, Flagel stated that the lights are environmentally friendly and that each light bulb should last approximately five years. Furthermore, Flagel stressed that Brandeis has a generally low energy footprint, which will continue to decrease because of the millions of dollars the University has invested toward sustainability over the past few years.
According to Prof. Laura Goldin (ENVS) in an interview with the Justice, the light bulbs used in the “Light of Reason” are energy-efficient bulbs, called “induction bulbs.” An induction bulb, according to the Environmental Protection Agency website, is “essentially a fluorescent light” but without the materials that “frequently cause other bulbs to burn out quickly.” Vice President for Operations James Gray wrote in an email to the Justice that this induction technology was not originally planned for the sculpture but was chosen because the bulbs are known for their energy efficiency and longevity.
Gray wrote that, while induction bulbs are known to last longer than average lights, the “number of hours a lamp is lit each day will ultimately determine its lifespan.” The lights in the “Light of Reason” are only on at night, meaning that the bulbs should have a relatively long lifespan—lasting about five years before they will be replaced.
Gray wrote that it is not possible to measure the exact amount of energy the “Light of Reason” installation uses since it is not “on a separate electric meter.”
However, he wrote that a good estimate would be that is uses less than 0.1 percent of the total electricity on campus.
In an interview with the Justice, founder and Chair of the Student Union Senate Sustainability Committee Anna Bessendorf ’15 said that the administration has made great improvements toward sustainability in the past few years. She said that although the University's environmental footprint is pretty low, "we could do a lot more to enter the modern age of sustainability efforts."
The University has taken several steps over the past few years to improve sustainability and reduce energy usage on campus.
Brandeis began an Energy Savings Program in 2004, according to its website, resulting in financial savings and a vast energy reduction.
In 2012, the University implemented the Brandeis Sustainable Energy Program, which was a $5 million investment toward energy efficiency.
According to Gray, the money has gone toward projects such as the completion of maintenance in heating and ventilation equipment, the replacement of leaking piping and of inefficient air conditioning systems, and the installation of energy efficient lighting. So far, this program has helped to both reduce the University’s carbon emissions and to save almost $550,000 in annual utility costs.
Gray wrote that, in the past decade, Brandeis has greatly reduced its energy usage—despite the 15 percent increase in students and greater demand for energy use. The University has reduced the amount of kilowatt hours of electricity used by more than nine percent in fiscal year 2014.
He also stated that “the amount of electricity used in FY 2014 is level with the amount used in FY 2005,” despite the increase in students. Brandeis has also reduced the amount of natural gas usage by 13.8 percent since FY 2005.
Goldin also wrote in an email to the Justice that Gray will soon start the search for a new sustainability manager on campus.