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Dennis Dill

Dennis Dill

Walk inside any college building and you will see the work of Dennis Dill. Look closer and you will see that he has done his work with an eye towards sustainability.

The District Manager of Maintenance & HVAC, Dennis’s responsibility for the past 16 years has been to manage the 55 people who maintain, modify, renovate, and renew the college’s buildings and equipment. Along the way, he has had the opportunity to save the college money even as he has charted a Green course.

As Dennis notes, the college started with the bottom line. "Our initial efforts were aimed solely at reducing our utility expenses. In the early days (late 80’s) we focused on lighting retro-fits, higher efficiency HVAC systems, and building automation systems to make it all work optimally."  Along the way, energy and money were saved, but more was to come.

Dennis has seen the expansion of the college’s sustainability goals and the ranks of those concerned about the environment. "Around 2004, we took our efforts to the next level by becoming refocused to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Now, sustainability pervades all College operations."

The College has evolved in its deeper appreciation of sustainability, and so has Dennis. "The 'green' light went on for me around 2003," Dennis notes. "I reserve judgment on the whole climate change argument, but feel that doing the right thing is the right thing to do regardless of your political beliefs. We need to leave the planet in a better condition than we found it."

Dennis has been doing the "right thing" quite often. In 2004 Dennis achieved an important certification, becoming LEED-Applied Professional. Since then he has been very active in the St. Louis chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). He teaches sustainable construction at Florissant Valley and has written and presented on sustainability locally and nationally.

And he has taken his work home. "Within the past several years, my wife and I more than double the size of our house. With the combination of energy-efficient mechanical systems, insulation, sealing/caulking, and higher-efficiency windows our utility bills are less now than they used to be before construction. We reused as much of the old materials (mainly framing lumber) as possible. We have a gray-water irrigation system and a patch of some of the happiest cattails that serve as a gray-water filtration system (on-site water purification). Ninety nine percent of our lighting is either fluorescent or compact fluorescent lights (CFL's)."

Dennis has even made sure his cars have had Green burials. "I have personally deconstructed two worn out vehicles we owned – selling all the scrap metals and recycling all the other materials through the St. Louis county recycling program. Virtually none of these cars went to a landfill." Still, Dennis is always looking to do more, at home and at work.

If money were not an issue, he would have the college invest in photo voltaic arrays, solar heating, wind turbines and more. But these Green ambitions, Dennis recognizes, must be rooted in an economic reality. "Philosophically, the college is right where it ought to be. The biggest challenge we face in the current economy is funding. There is much more we could be doing, but we have more critical infrastructure repairs to make that consume nearly all our capital funding. Our level of deferred maintenance items approaches $30 million. The trick is to try to stay ahead of system failures and select the most economically viable sustainable projects we can. All the 'quick payback' projects have been implemented (and in some cases with multiple iterations)."

These are big challenges, but Dennis is one to make the best of a difficult situation, as Lori Thomson, Director of Physical Facilities, has noted: "We are very proud of Dennis Dill, and thank our lucky stars that he is part of St. Louis Community College’s Physical Facilities division!"  

Dennis’s efforts have benefited everyone inside the college’s buildings and his work down the line will help many beyond those structures.