ACHIEVING LEED CERTIFICATION FROM the U.S. Green Building Council is certainly an accomplishment worth celebrating. Demonstrating sustainability in facility design shines a positive light on the institution, too. Attaining the highest level of certification possible for a campus building is often a goal.
Sometimes project managers realize a higher level of LEED can be achieved than originally planned. Here's what pushed (or is pushing) some campus buildings up the LEED ladder.
<b> Blackstone Hall, Clark University (Mass.): Originally targeted LEED Silver, awaiting final designation (Gold expected).</b>
Team members from Clark, architect Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, and Consigli Construction ditched a cork floor product for a vinyl material with a high recycled content instead, pushed for a higher rate of recycling during demolition and construction, and strove for innovation credits through education (which included posting a video online and installing informational signage in the new building).
<b> The Biodesign Institute (Buildings A and B), Arizona State University: Originally LEED not targeted for Building A, which achieved LEED Gold. Originally targeted LEED Silver for Building B, which achieved LEED Platinum.</b>
After it became apparent that Building B would hit a high level of LEED, officials decided to pursue LEED for Building A. Architects at Lord, Aeck & Sargent and at Gould Evans Associates incorporated more sustainable design strategies. Both buildings earned extra points for energy performance, with a rooftop photovoltaic array placed on both buildings and all of the energy generated applied to Building B-earning it maximum points in the category, plus two renewable energy points, nudging it across the Platinum threshold.
<b> Embrey Engineering Building, Southern Methodist University (Texas): Originally targeted Basic LEED, obtained LEED Gold.</b>
About halfway through the design and development process, the dean at SMU's engineering school informed the project team, which included architects at Hahnfeld Hoffer Stanford and general contractor Turner Construction, that LEED Gold would be the new goal. For extra LEED points, the team added a three-story light column, included education kiosks so students could learn about the building's green aspects, and improved indoor air quality by "flushing" the building with 100 percent fresh air for two weeks to help eliminate vapors from new materials and volatile organic solvents.
<b> Langdon Woods Residence Hall, Plymouth State University (N.H.): Originally targeted Basic LEED, obtained LEED Gold.</b>
During the construction documents phase, the project team pursued additional points by reaching almost 60 percent energy use reduction levels (using excess waste heat from an adjacent cogeneration plant as the primary heating source), reducing the heat island through Energy Star roofing, and reaching a 50 percent certified wood level (using wood from certified fast growth forests). -Melissa Ezarik
ANYONE WITH ONE EAR TO ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS HAS HEARD the term "carbon neutral" join a growing list of buzzwords, like "green" and "sustainability," used to describe efforts to save the planet.
But what does it mean? Being carbon neutral is something of a balancing act-trying to ensure that the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the air is offset by the amount being removed from the atmosphere, either by using renewable energy onsite or through carbon offsets elsewhere.
Last December the <b>College of the Atlantic</b> (Maine) became the first higher ed institution to officially become carbon neutral. The school offset its carbon output over a 15-month period beginning in 2006 (nearly 2,500 tons) by investing $25,000 in a greenhouse gas reduction project operated by The Climate Trust of Oregon. The Trust devised a way to improve and manage traffic flow in Portland, Ore., effectively reducing the amount of time cars spend idling at traffic lights and thus cutting carbon dioxide emissions.
COA is also reducing its annual greenhouse gas emissions by getting all its electricity through a low-impact hydroelectric generator in Maine. The school expects to offset emissions this year by 22 percent, or about 450 tons.
Though it can claim the first seat on the carbon neutral bandwagon, COA is hardly alone in its efforts. At press time, 539 colleges and universities had signed the "net-zero" pledge organized through the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment program. Many more are expected to sign on this month as the ACUPCC holds its first leadership summit in Grand Rapids, Mich., June 5-6. To learn more, visit www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org. -Tim Goral
LEADERS WHO SIGN THE AMERICAN COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY Presidents Climate Commitment are pledging to move their campus toward becoming carbon neutral and agreeing to adhere to guidelines such as making their progress public. In November, the ACUPCC announced a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative that will give signers access to extra funding and better pricing. <b>Dakota County Technical College</b> (Minn.) is one of 11 pilot institutions that will provide guidance to others utilizing the program.
"Being part of the commitment was definitely a boost," says Paul DeMuth, director of operations at DCTC. "We were doing smaller things to save energy, but joining the Commitment has made us look further down the road." He says the baseline emissions inventory required by ACUPCC has been completed, the campus recycling program has been updated, solar panels have been installed on a greenhouse, prairie grass has been planted, and the chiller plant has been updated. Improved bus routes and other alternate transportation options have also been explored. But the big project DeMuth is hoping to tackle with help from the ACUPCC-CCI partnership and the state is wind generation. "We're in the south end of Minnesota, so we have a lot of wind and property. If I could get three one- megawatt generators I could offload the entire campus," he explains. "We use about one meg a day, so we'd sell the extra energy back to the grid." This means DCTC wouldn't have to spend green in order to go green. -Ann McClure
SOME INSTITUTIONS HAVE car-sharing and even bicycle-sharing programs meant to get people where they're going with minimal impact on the environment. <b>MIT</b> has come up with another innovative solution. The City Car, developed by MIT's Smart Cities Research Group, is designed to supplement public transportation by addressing the "last mile" problem. That is, the extra distance riders have to travel from a train or bus stop to their final destination. The City Car is a two-person electric vehicle meant to close that gap. Its clever design enables the cars to fold up and stack together in a docking station-not unlike shopping carts-to reduce space while their batteries charge. Smart Cities developers want to place stacks of vehicles throughout a city to create a network linked to the existing mass transit system. When a commuter gets off a bus or train, they Stack and Go can borrow a City Car and go about their business. Then they can leave it at any stack near their final destination, where it will be recharged and waiting for the next user. -T.G.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR campus energy hogs are? Identifying these buildings is "an incredibly valuable kind of exercise," says Jerry Jackson, an internationally recognized energy economist and author of <em>Energy Budgets at Risk</em> (Wiley Finance, 2008). But many campuses "haven't taken that first basic step." As for tracking and comparing individual facilities, he adds, "people haven't gotten around to doing this in an organized, formal kind of way." At <b>Texas A&M University</b>, where Jackson is an associate professor of construction science, a closer look at one energy drain uncovered several holes in the old building's HVAC system-a definite light bulb moment.
Using real-time data analysis to truly understand where and how each facility could improve is even less prevalent. "You won't find many institutions that aren't talking about energy conservation, but what are we actually doing that will have a real impact?" asks Alfred Scaramelli, president of H2O Applied Technologies, a Boston-based firm that has worked with about a dozen higher ed institutions to design and install measures to optimize utility usage or replace inefficient equipment and systems. In his experience, nearly all IHEs are tracking total energy use per month, only about 10 to 20 percent are tracking and taking action on building-by-building data, and just a few IHEs are using real-time data.
Yet everyone should be doing so, Jackson says, with meters available that can "track energy use on a 15-minute basis throughout the entire year," which helps in creating usage benchmarks that will make future variations stand out. Scaramelli adds that data can be accessed remotely as well. The data could show, for example, a 25 percent spike in electricity usage in one building every Tuesday at 10 a.m.
With today's energy costs blowing the budget roof off, it's more important than ever to get up to speed with energy tracking. It helps to know the most energy efficient facilities too, since what's going right there might help what's going wrong elsewhere, Jackson points out. "It's just sort of a goldmine out there. It's surprising how much energy or costs can be reduced with almost no expense." Campus leaders can expect to pay a few hundred each for new meters, and many changes can be made by making building occupants aware of what they can do and by keeping systems in check.
While energy usage analysis takes a lot of effort, and it's best to go the route a number of schools have taken by hiring a full-time energy manager, Scaramelli says that "annual compensation is recovered multiple-fold with the savings." -M.E.
DISCUSSIONS OF "GOING GREEN" USUALLY FOCUS on conserving energy and gas, but conserving water is just as important. The recent drought in the Southeast has drawn attention to water conservation, but many institutions started taking steps years ago. Installing waterless urinals and low flow showerheads and toilets are popular options, but using alternate water sources for landscaping can have a bigger impact. It's not a new idea. Administrators at the <b>University of Idaho</b> began watering campus golf courses with reclaimed water (i.e., treated effluent) in 1979. The program expanded to other lawns on campus, bringing the total to 225 acres using 90 million gallons per year. Because the university has its own wells for drinking water, using the reclaimed water is actually more expensive-costing about 60 cents per thousand gallons-but it is worthwhile, since it reduces the strain on the aquifer, explains Michael Holthaus, water systems manager. He says the university is lucky because the campus is close to the treatment plant and the distance the water needs to be pumped can influence the cost.
However, the reclaimed water used for irrigation at <b>Southwestern University</b> (Texas) costs half the price of normal drinking water. The use of a computerized irrigation system and a weather station to monitor conditions has also cut the cost of irrigation.
Institutions can also follow the example of <b>California State University, Fullerton,</b> and landscape with drought-tolerant plants or install cisterns to catch rainwater, as the <b>University of Denver</b> and <b>Xavier University</b> (Ohio) do.
Stepping back inside, the use of closed loop chillers, which recycle water instead of discharging it after one use, can be used to save water when cooling laboratory equipment. <b>Georgia Tech</b> has done this, as well as switched from aspirators to vacuum pumps, saving between 10,000 and 13,000 gallons of water a week.
From monitoring leaks to reducing usage, conserving water is good for the environment and sometimes the bottom line. "In the old days water was here forever and it was cheap," says Holthaus, "but now people are realizing it's a vital resource." -A.M.
HIGHER ED INSTITUTIONS ARE CATCHING SOME RAYS-AND savings-by turning to the sun as an alternate power source. Two common applications involve photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight into electricity, and solar heating, often used for preheating domestic water or swimming pools.
<b>San Diego State University</b> is part of a solar hybrid lighting project by Sempra Energy, as one of seven test sites in the nation. The institution had its first solar installation in 2000, according to energy manager William Lekas. Solar has since been added to three other buildings and a parking structure. Solar energy usage saves SDSU about 150,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which amounts to roughly $18,000 per year, says Lekas. "This enables us to continue to provide the total demand for the campus further into the future."
One would suspect that sunny California leads the collegiate pack with solar usage, but while there are certainly institutions there that use it, solar power is found in other regions too.
For example, <b>Dickinson College</b> (Pa.) is testing solar water heating equipment in a greenhouse at the college's organic farm to determine its efficiency in aiding year-round crop production. Solar panels have also been installed on the roof of Kaufman Hall, a move that has saved the college an estimated $3,300 in energy costs since last September, explains Matt Steiman, biodiesel plant supervisor and assistant farm manager.
"We're just able to use power more efficiently by generating on site," adds Steiman. "That's the beauty of solar-we make the electricity on the roof when the sun shines-and we use that to run our computers and lights."
How quick a return on investment solar produces can vary by climate, with locales where sunlight is more prominent having a faster gain, explains Julian Dautremont-Smith, associate director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. States are also offering grants and other financial incentives to promote solar development at IHEs. To read about other institutions with solar power, visit AASHE's website: www.aashe.org/resources/solar_campus.php. -Michele Herrmann
IF TOWN/GOWN RELATIONS BUILD a strong link between a college and its community, then energy sustainability could perhaps be a hands-on, joint effort in promoting conservation between neighbors.
Last summer, four students from <b>Northland College</b> (Wis.) took a door-to-door approach in encouraging residents in Wisconsin's greater Ashland area to rethink energy use in their homes by distributing compact fluorescent light bulbs and fliers with household-related tips to approximately 4,000 homes.
While trying to motivate citizens to think about energy sustainability, the goal was also to educate them about the financial savings that can come from a simple bulb change, explains sustainable systems educator Clare Hintz. "We estimate they saved about $7,200 just by swapping out that one light bulb we gave them."
Since March 2007, Northland has been working with the Alliance for Sustainability (www.allianceforsustainability.org), a Wisconsin grassroots organization, and other community groups to implement "Natural Step," a series of guidelines for sustainable growth in the state's Chequamegon Bay Area. Leaders in the four towns the students visited were already applying these guidelines to their operations to save energy and cut costs.
"We wanted a way to involve local homeowners and get them excited about what the towns were doing as well," says Hintz about the program. Two similar programs are being planned for this summer. During their visit, the students also handed out free passes for the region's transit system.
Students are taking the lead in other ways, too. In Michigan, two students from <b>Albion College</b>'s Institute for the Environment made a presentation on beneficial conservation actions to Albion's City Council this past fall, which resulted in the city purchasing a new truck that runs on biofuel. -M.H.
YOU'VE SWITCHED TO COMPACT FLUORESCENT bulbs and started a recycling program on campus. Wondering what other sustainability steps you can take that don't involve breaking ground on a LEED building? Here are some ideas.
<b>Trash the trays.</b>
By eliminating trays from dining halls, colleges and universities are saving water and energy because there is one less thing to wash, and saving food waste because diners can't easily carry excess items to their tables.
<b>Add class to glass.</b>
Windows can be a weak spot in building insulation. Heat Mirror insulating glass from manufacturers such as Southwall Technologies (www.southwall.com) can bring the insulating power of windows on par with walls, helping to save on heating and air conditioning costs.
<b>Clean your HVAC.</b>
Oil build-up in HVAC coils can reduce efficiency. PermaFrost from Powertron Global (www.powertronglobal.com) is a chemical that will reduce oil migration, thus improving efficiency and bringing a potential costs savings of 10 percent or more.
There are numerous, natural cleaning agents on the market ranging from window cleaners to disinfectants that will do the job while releasing fewer toxins into the environment. -A.M.