Vanderbilt Community Association

2011 Energy and Water Conservation/Sustainable Practices Winner, Larger Community

Vanderbilt Community Association: Dedication to Conservation

by Kathy Danforth

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Vanderbilt Community Association of Naples has garnered the Energy and Water Conservation/Sustainable Practices award for larger communities in the 2011 Communities of Excellence contest. With 800 homes and 330 acres in addition to a golf course, they have been able to significantly impact the amount of resources used by their community.

“Vanderbilt spends tens of thousands of dollars each year in capital expenditures to ensure that they stay in compliance with the Collier County Consumption Use Permit,” explains manager Cindy Gray. “One rain sensor has been placed on the golf course and one in the association’s common area. Our association irrigation is run through the golf course first before it comes to the common area,” Gray states. “Together the rain sensors save an estimated 20,000 gallons of water for the year and around $6,000 of electricity.”

“The remote irrigation system works with hand-held radios, allowing the golf course irrigation team to turn the system on and off or program it from anywhere on the course. The golf course superintendent also purchased an application for his iPad that allows him to monitor the system from home,” Gray comments.

In 2009, as part of a $620,000 perimeter project, drip line irrigation was installed. “The savings are not yet calculated,” Gray explains, “but there are evident savings in the fact that there is no more overspray and evaporation from the rotor heads that used to water the perimeter, nor is there any runoff. The water soaks directly into the plant roots.”

Energy savings have been achieved by changes in a number of areas. “This summer four geothermal heat pumps were installed to heat the main club pool and the spa,” Gray shares. “The cost was $40,000 and the estimated savings in electricity should be around $9,000 per year. This alternative heating source is 90 percent more efficient than gas heaters, is fueled by a renewable source (the earth), and provides a minimum 50 percent savings in operational costs. It is also smaller and more versatile, and can be used year-round without inflating the energy bill.”

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The association has also addressed other components of their energy usage. Gray states, “Over the years we have systematically replaced outdoor and indoor lighting with more energy-efficient fixtures and bulbs. These bulbs also have a longer lifespan, thus diminishing waste in the landfill. At the condominium and carriage home carports, we have replaced traditional floodlights with 15 watt floodlights that have a 60 watt output. In the condominium building we are now using 23 watt compact fluorescent lighting instead of 75 watt incandescent bulbs, and in the common buildings, we have installed 32 watt fluorescent tubes with a 40 watt output.” Timers, motion sensors, and dimmers have been installed to avoid unnecessary use of lighting, with reduced lighting costs saving up to 40 percent during some months.

All air conditioning units have been upgraded to 13 SEER as unit replacement was needed. Programmable thermostats have also been installed, and managers can override the system to curtail air conditioning when rooms are not in use. “All window shades in the clubhouse have been replaced with solar screen shades to minimize heat and UV exposure,” Gray adds.

Kitchens are a rather energy-intensive area, with the need to keep cold foods cold, hot foods hot, and cooks comfortably in between. “In the past year we added more return vents in the main kitchen to improve circulation. As a result the kitchen is cooler and the air conditioner does not have to work as hard to provide a reasonable temperature,” Gray says. “After installation of more efficient kitchen equipment, our propane gas usage has decreased by approximately 20 percent. When the need arises to replace the original appliances in the kitchen, we purchase only Energy Star equipment.”

Recycling has been expanded, and Gray reports, “We have receptacles on the golf course, pool decks, and all food and beverage outlets to encourage participation. We recycle aluminum cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles, and cardboard. Our expanded recycling program has diminished the trash sent to the landfill. The savings on trash is estimated at $230 per month now that there is one less trash pick-up per week. Since the start of the recycling, there have been six yard bins picked up three times each week.”

Gray attributes the community’s conservation measures to the board’s direction for the community. As they begin a new renovation project, Gray states, “In everything they do—from energy-efficient appliances in the kitchen down to the rugs and how long they’ll last and whether they’ll be recyclable—everything will be considered from a conservation viewpoint. We all work together as a team, but the board of directors is what drives the management team to conserve.” Most conservation requires direction, implementation, and participation, and the Vanderbilt community has come through with all three!