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ith the costs of higher education continuing to soar, many colleges and universities are looking for innovative ways to lower expenses, while simultaneously pursuing their long-term sustainability goals. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is proving that both objectives are, indeed, achievable.

The green movement focuses on four factors: clean energy, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly production, and the conservation and reduction of waste materials. Information technology offices at institutions can exercise great control in energy efficiency benefitting not only the institution, but the surrounding community as well.

Karli Green, Senior Product Manager, Campus Management:

"Pilot programs at many institutions show that you can save money and the environment at the same time.

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.

Colleges and universities essentially operate as self-contained small cities, providing huge amounts of energy to its campuses, in increasing amounts, all day, every day. The higher education sector owns and operates tens of thousands of buildings, owns millions of acres of land and spends nearly $10 billion each year on energy.

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.

“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.

It is becoming more and more fashionable to claim a greener identity, and it seems college students everywhere are excited to help the environment, particularly when their actions are visible to others. When questioned about reducing the carbon footprint at Bentley University (Mass.), for instance, I’ve been asked, “When are we going to install wind turbines?”

Signatories to the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, as of mid-May. --ACUPCC annual report

Portion of current campus sustainability positions created in 2007 or later. --AASHE Higher Education Sustainability Staffing Survey

Amount of carbon dioxide reduced by ACUPCC institutions. --2010 ACUPCC annual report

The sustainability movement is on pace for rapid growth in the United States, with some analysts predicting it will approach $50 billion by 2013. Stanford University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California, Berkeley, and MIT top the U.S. News and World Report list of universities offering degrees in renewable energy, sustainable design, and conservation. It was only a matter of time then that a college, focused solely on preparing grads for careers in this field, would appear on the map.

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.

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