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Articles: Campus Construction

The Power of Green

For six years each June, University Business editors have been sharing snapshots of sustainability efforts taking place at campuses across the country. As green continues to grow in popularity, institutional efforts and the collective impact of those efforts continue to impress.

Just one example is the combined 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours of green power purchased annually by the Top 20 College & University list from the Green Power Partnership. It's the equivalent of powering nearly 103,000 average American homes.

Electricity. It turns on the lights, powers the smart boards, and runs the computers that are all vital to a modern campus. Acquiring that electricity can be both an expensive proposition and a key part of an environmental action plan. With the size and variety of buildings on campus, some colleges and universities have their own power stations on campus to ease their dependence on public utility companies. Most have their own microgrids to distribute power generated from any source. Now campus leaders are looking into giving those microgrids an education.

It's rare to even hear about a single new campus building these days that wasn't built with sustainability principles in mind. Inevitably, institutional officials are learning not to reinvent the wheel every time a new construction project comes up. Creating a green building policy is one way of ensuring sustainability is a collective goal--a goal that will likely benefit future project design teams.

“How much does LEED cost”? University administrators and facilities directors across the country are grappling with the need to design and construct their buildings sustainably with all the obvious long-term benefits but within their “first cost” budget.

There was a time, and not all that long ago, when many organizations looked at energy costs as a fixed cost of doing business over which they had little control. But rising energy prices, coupled with a challenging economic environment and an increasing focus on carbon reduction, have grabbed American leaders by the shoulders and shaken them into a greater state of consciousness when it comes to energy.

In today’s discussions about buildings and architecture for higher education campuses, sustainability is touted for its positive environmental impact. However, sustainable design can be more than just responsible earth stewardship. It can impact operational costs, support and improve student learning, and even promote change in students’ behavior. Universities should approach sustainability as an expectation, not an add-on, incorporating it into the building process and thinking about all of its potential impact when making design decisions.

California Lutheran University and the City of Thousand Oaks grew up together. California Lutheran College was officially incorporated on Aug. 4, 1959, five years before the city incorporated. CLU is just finishing a wonderful celebration of its first 50 years. And the same birthday is coming up for Thousand Oaks.

Once administrators decide to focus on adding more group study areas to campus, a key question to answer is this: Should the spaces be out in the open or behind closed doors? "Rooms can be big and open, or they can be private rooms, which can be very modest," says Michael Prifti, managing principal of BLT Associates.

A dream for San Fernando Valley officials for 30 years and a campus plan for the past decade has finally become reality at California State University, Northridge.

The renovation of an historic building in downtown Portland, formerly owned by the University of Oregon, has brought Portland Community College (Ore.) administrators together.

Like many who work in higher education, I love university traditions--the rituals, events, and stories that carry on and bind together each generation of students. Those traditions engender devotion to our institutions on the part of our alumni and make us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.

As high school, college, and NBA basketball seasons power up, we hearken back to one of the best sports movie of all time: Hoosiers. In the film, the small-town Hickory High basketball team is about to do battle with the behemoth South Bend squad for the 1952 Indiana High School State Title. Hickory player Merle Webb famously declares, "Let's win this one for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here."

Who are you and how did you find us? That's what admissions officers at colleges and universities all over the country are asking this year as "stealth applications" proliferate.

Rich in natural light, the building aims to help students be inspired by the school's mission, encouraging them to remember the need for accountability and transparency in international service.

Over the past few decades, colleges and universities have engaged in a kind of facilities arms race to build new, state-of-the-art dormitories, dining halls, classrooms, athletic complexes, and fine arts centers. Higher ed institutions face enormous competitive pressures to build buildings that rival what's on their peers' campuses. For many, cutting-edge means new.