U.S. GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL: Higher Education Update

Higher Ed Projects     279 certified  |  1719 registered  |  1998 total

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From the Desk of…
Jaime Van Mourik, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP
Higher Education Sector Manager,
US Green Building Council


Having recently joined the Higher Education Sector team at USGBC, I am thrilled to enter into this community which is buzzing with innovation and ambition for greener campuses. USGBC has seen the number of registered projects in higher education increase exponentially over the last few years, with nearly 300 projects that are LEED certified and 1,700 more pursuing certification as of the end of September. Additionally, close to 600 institutions have signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment in an effort to decrease carbon emissions while increasing the research and educational programs to help prepare future generations; 290 of these institutions have made a commitment that all new campus construction will be built to a minimum LEED Silver standard or equivalent.

Writing sustainability into the metrics of college and university rankings, the Princeton Review announced their new Green Rating this year as a criterion for leadership. Of the eleven institutions who received the highest Green Rating, nine have at least one project that is LEED certified or in the pipeline for certification.

The higher education community has made great strides in greening their communities and USGBC wants to continue to support these efforts. There are many resources available on usgbc.org, including ready made PowerPoint presentations, project profiles, information on the LEED Rating Systems and resources for college and university educators. We invite you to use these resources as a springboard for the work you are doing to green college and university campuses across the country.

This is the first installment of the quarterly Higher Education Newsletter and we welcome your suggestions for stories going forward. The USGBC Higher Education team looks forward to highlighting your successes in going green. Enjoy the newsletter!

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Spotlight on Student Champions
Interview with Lauren Riggs, Class of 06
St. Mary’s College of Maryland


When it comes to “greening” your campus, any community member can be a part of this effort, from students to staff members. The following interview is a great example of how two students worked together to help create a carbon neutral institution.

US Green Building Council: Why did you focus on creating a carbon neutral environment over other sustainability efforts?

Lauren Riggs: My roommate, Holly Chase, and I wanted to set an achievable goal for St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) and advocating for renewable energy was a choice that could happen fairly quickly while having an impact; within a year of planting the seed, our goal was realized and we were offsetting 100 percent of SMCM’s energy consumption, making SMCM Maryland’s first public institution to achieve carbon neutrality.

USGBC: In your research, what types of renewable energy options did you find? How did you determine that Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) were the best fit for SMCM?

LR: Soon after deciding to pursue renewable energy on our campus, we began researching on-site versus off-site options. We met with the campus facilities manager to discuss the current energy use and to assess the receptivity from the Campus Sustainability Committee. From our initial research, we concluded that SMCM could not support on-site renewable energy and that purchasing RECs was the best option for our campus.

We contacted the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, SMCM’s current energy provider, to inquire about local renewable energy options and learned that it was not covered in the offerings at the time. With this knowledge, we researched REC providers external to the college’s existing contract, but kept the search local to Maryland and Virginia.

USGBC: Who pays for the offsets? Did cost factor into the final decision?

LR: The administration determined that offsets would be paid for by an increase in tuition. Based on the maximum number of students, average campus energy consumption from 2004, and the cost of RECs per kilowatt-hour, we were able to project a per student increase in tuition, for the purchase of three, eighteen, twenty-five, fifty, and 100 percent RECs.

USGBC: Was the student body resistant to the increase in tuition to pay for the offsets?

LR: Actually, SMCM students showed overwhelming support for the purchase of 100 percent of its offsets. These offsets will decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 14.2 million pounds.

USGBC: Are there any new efforts happening at SMCM as a result of this initiative?

LR: Educational forums and resources are offered to encourage students to extend campus sustainability efforts into their dorm rooms. Recently, the campus administration secured funding for a new construction project that is pursuing LEED certification.

USGBC: Are there any lessons learned from this initiative?

LR: Looking back on the experience, I realize how crucial a holistic view of the campus was in making carbon neutrality possible. The idea of two students led to conversations with leaders across the campus and community, from facilities managers to financial advisors, administrators to energy providers, student government officials to the student body itself. Understanding the proper communication pathways is important to student advocacy successes.

USGBC: What advice would you give to students who are looking for ways to “green” their campus?

LR: Don’t underestimate what you, as an individual on your campus, can do. Whether you sit at the top of the administration or in the middle of the student body, choose an aspect of your school that needs improvement, knowing that you can affect change. Campuses have a significant carbon footprint but they are also incredible platforms for reform.

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Green Leaders and Best Practices
Katherine Moxhet, Harvard University


Harvard University’s Office of Sustainability, formerly the Green Campus Initiative, has developed The Green Building Resource to collect and share best practices in green building across the university. Using LEED as the accountability tool, the Resource provides information and tools for people involved in green building design and construction, and lessons learned from Harvard’s LEED projects.

Information and tools available to project teams engaged in green building include “roadmaps” for LEED certification, “how to” guides on the integrated design process, lifecycle costing, energy modeling, and resources on writing Requests For Proposals (RFPs). The growing archive from completed LEED projects at Harvard can be found in the Case Studies section and in a database of innovative and green technologies and products used in buildings at Harvard. Approved LEED documentation is also available for download.

As Harvard University surpasses a dozen LEED buildings on campus (13 are certified and 23 more are registered with USGBC), the collective interest in green building has never been higher. The Resource was designed to serve as a “living” archive of the experiences and lessons learned from these projects and to support the implementation of the university’s Sustainability Principles. Harvard recently adopted Green Building Guidelines which require any capital project over $5 million achieve a LEED Silver or higher rating.

The website’s goal is to share best practices and showcase Harvard’s green building efforts to audiences within and outside Harvard. Other universities, green building professionals and the public alike can use Harvard as a model in implementing their own sustainability goals. The site will continually be updated as projects achieve LEED certification, and new technologies and products are implemented.

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Curriculum Connections

USGBC is helping to build green campuses from the inside – out by supporting educators in using the built environment as the context for learning. Our programs and initiatives encourage the reorientation of education programs toward sustainability and green building to prepare students to build the new, green marketplace of the future. Find tools and resources, and learn more about opportunities to connect with other educators and schools going green in the classroom at USGBC’s Educator Resource Center.

USGBC’s Excellence in Green Building Curriculum Awards
2008 marked the inaugural year for USGBC’s Excellence in Green Building Curriculum Awards Program. Twelve education programs have been identified as outstanding models for using the built environment as the context for learning, receiving either a recognition award or incentive grant funding. Recognition Awards honor high quality, educational programs demonstrating leadership in the field and with a proven track record for inspiring students. Incentive Grants provide up to $20,000 in seed funding to assist educators in growing green curricula offerings throughout their institution. Award winners range greatly in format and audiences they engage, but all share the common outcome of building knowledge and understanding in future generations for ways we can incorporate green building and sustainability practices – within schools, across campus, and throughout communities. USGBC is pleased to be continuing this program in 2009. Look for a Request for Proposals to be released later this fall. Learn more about applying to the program and read stories from these award winning campuses by visiting the Educator Resource Center.

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