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Katherine Lymn, Forum News Service, Published September 22 2013

Can man camps be 'green' housing?

DICKINSON – Being “green” may be a rare topic of conversation around oil and gas industry water coolers, but workforce housing, or crew camps, can be resource-efficient by nature, according to a recent study.

The camps are sustainable simply because it’s economical, and that efficiency reduces the stress larger camps have on nearby communities, according to a white paper released last month.

“It’s not like the folks at Target Logistics are all a bunch of tree huggers, but efficiency is efficiency,” said archaeologist Richard Rothaus, who was paid by workforce housing provider Target Logistics to write the white paper.

“Their goal isn’t to save the environment. Their goal is to provide economical housing, and it just turns out the best way for them to do that is also environmentally responsible.”

Target Logistics facilities use low-flow showers and sinks. Dunn County Lodge, just north of Dickinson on Highway 22, monitors water use, and it’s at 35 to 40 gallons a day per head, general manager Keith Jankowski said.

To compare, the average family of four can use 400 gallons of water a day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s also in the details: The lodge’s 60 washers and dryers are energy-efficient. Housekeeping tries to re-dye old towels and sew up torn sheets to avoid replacing them.

Currently, the Dunn County Lodge houses about 450 tenants, but it could expand. Common areas were built to handle 1,000, and there’s land to add another 400 beds.

The design of some crew camps is sustainable from the start. Camps built with modular pieces are efficient because if one part breaks, there’s always a replacement.

“If you really want to minimize your impact on the environment,” Rothaus said, “modular buildings are the way to go because they’re all the same parts.”

Much of the crew camps’ recyclable waste is owed to the state’s few recycling options.

“There’s almost no opportunities for recycling out there, which is actually a North Dakota problem,” Rothaus said. “There’s a heck of a lot of plastic water bottles and cardboard and stuff that’s going into landfills.”

But at Dunn County Lodge, Jankowski said he’s seen the number of truck hauls of recycled cardboard and trash decrease from employees compressing the waste, leading to fewer trucks on the road.

That, along with busing tenants to work sites instead of them driving individually, takes a lot of wear and tear off local roads.

As for plastics and glass recycling, Jankowski said the lodge could “easily” recycle, if there were a better state mechanism in place.

Jankowski said overall, Dunn County Lodge has the power to help its hundreds of tenants be sustainable.

“It was very jarring and surprising in the middle of the huge oil boom,” Rothaus said, “… to find right there at the heart of that industry, ‘Oh my gosh, here’s some actual sustainable development that’s going on.’’