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Setting the standard for sustainability in dining

Maseeh Hall's dining facility will be a model for new buildings.

When Maseeh Hall’s Howard Dining Hall opens in fall 2011, every scrap of food will be composted, thanks to a pulper-extractor machine that turns food waste into a dry pulp; cooking oil will be reused as biodiesel in campus vehicles, thanks to a pump that simplifies the conversion process; and the electricity bill will be lower, thanks to energy-saving equipment.

“Our goal is to create dining facilities that have the most sophisticated and energy-efficient equipment from a technology standpoint,” said Rich Berlin, director of Campus Dining. “Maseeh Hall will set a new standard for dining facilities as we build them.”

The new dining hall’s equipment will reduce both waste and energy usage. The pulper-extractor machine reduces waste and speeds up food biodegradation by pumping water out of the food, leaving behind a product that breaks down quickly and easily into soil. What once expanded a landfill as food waste will now be returned to the soil as a valuable resource. The new equipment also includes energy-saving devices such as a hood exhaust system that employs infrared beams to detect vapor or steam and varies the fan speed accordingly.

“The equipment we’re putting in is all designed to use energy as it’s needed,” Berlin said. Like the energy-saving equipment in 100 Main Marketplace, the retail dining facility in the new MIT Sloan School of Management building, “the equipment helps reduce waste that is both financially and ecologically expensive," Berlin said.

Also in Maseeh Hall is a new pump that allows for a cleaner, more efficient storage of waste cooking oil. The oil will be pumped out of the cooking equipment in Maseeh, then filtered and stored in a container for the MIT student group, Biodiesel @ MIT. The group uses a biodiesel processor on MIT campus to convert waste vegetable oil from campus dining facilities into biodiesel, which is then mixed with regular diesel fuel and used in the institute's diesel-powered Tech Shuttles and campus equipment.

Biodiesel member Kyle Gilpin, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, is looking forward to the new system. “Right now when we get the oil, it sometimes has French fry pieces in it,” said Gilpin. “We have to filter it ourselves which makes for a lengthier process and the pump can get clogged.”

The new pump in Maseeh will speed up this process because it will already be filtered. “Pre-cleaning the oil makes it a better product at the other end so the students get a better yield out of their biodiesel production,” said Berlin

And of course, Maseeh’s dining hall will adhere to sustainable practices already in place at dining halls across campus, including reusable, “green” takeout containers, seasonal menus, and sourcing local products.

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