Sustainability and High-Performance

Green From the Ground Up

Regardless of the factors driving the continued market focus on environmentally sustainable construction strategies, we have noted some recurring trends that continue to be popular. The following sections will briefly note each of these trends and some of the unique opportunities of their implementation.

Using Partnerships to Build Green

Given that an investment in a LEED building is 40 to 50 years or longer, a related investment in management and maintenance will also run for many decades. Unfortunately, maintenance is often not adequately considered in advance, and when budgets tighten, deferring building maintenance can seem like an attractive option to universities who are trying to stretch their dollars. So how does a cash-strapped public institution pay for green construction and maintenance?

Turning Risk Into Resilience

Higher education has already taken a leadership role in climate mitigation — that is, preventing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions — as displayed by the 660 signatory campuses of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) who have collectively reduced net carbon emissions by 25 percent in just five years. Now, higher education must take the lead in climate adaptation — preparing for and responding to the impacts of climate change.

Warming a Campus With Wood

Longwood has practiced sustainability by heating with biomass fuel (sawdust) for over 30 years. Longwood is the only public institution of higher education in Virginia and one of only two state agencies that burns biomass for heating fuel. Current annual energy savings are more than $4.9M when compared with burning oil, which the University used as its fuel source before switching to biomass.

Facts About Green

As of April 4, 2013, there were 665 signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Sustainability efforts on campus have become essential as college hopefuls are now adding a “green campus” to their selection criteria!

The Greener Side of Tech

Sure, it’s easy to toss trash into the proper receptacles and to turn off the lights when leaving a room, but how does a university with thousands of personnel, administrators, and students on campus initiate a greener place to live, work, and study? Green initiatives for the higher education sector are everywhere, and there are so many ways that colleges can get involved, from implementing cleaner technologies that use less power consumption to offering vegan dining choices in the cafeteria to properly disposing of old, outdated printers.

Creating Sustainable Campus Landscapes

While the nonstop, point-grabbing treasure hunt for Silver, Gold, or even Platinum certification has forced architects to get better at designing and creating more efficient structures, everything outside the building envelope has basically remained an afterthought. This narrow approach not only downplays the complex role a project’s site plays in its overall sustainability, it also ignores cultural and contextual considerations that are critically important to campus planning and design. Thankfully, there could be help on the horizon with the long-overdue introduction of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) into the certification game.

Campus Sustainability an Easy Sell

So, why have smart campuses found sustainability such an attractive value proposition? In short, because our customers are demanding sustainability, because it saves money, and because higher education’s ethical license to operate is at risk if we don’t respond to a society beset with myriad unsustainable ailments.

Laboratories: Solving the Challenge of Water

Increasing demands for high-performance and sustainable designs are challenging laboratories and research facilities to consider their energy and water usage. Laboratory design is constantly evolving and outdating previous methods due to new building and energy codes, and lab designers are seeking game-changing ideas. This makes innovative design solutions more imperative than ever.

Passive House, Actively Green

Unity College in central Maine is a small liberal arts college with a big voice in the national sustainability conversation. We take seriously our leadership role in higher education and across sectors, preparing our students for leadership roles of their own in a changing world. From our unique sustainability science focus throughout the curriculum, to our first-in-the-nation commitment to divest our endowment from fossil fuels, we aim to model viable approaches to sustainability education that improve learning, engage the community, and decrease environmental impact.

It’s Payback Time

Being energy efficient has a lot going for it. Students and faculty appreciate the comfortable environments. Staff members enjoy maintaining and servicing an intelligently controlled building. And everyone can feel good about contributing to a healthy, green future. But at what cost? There is plenty of whizz-bang technology that looks great… until you crunch the numbers. Is a 20-year return on investment too long to wait? Or is the alternative too expensive?

Quiet in the Lab

Armstrong Atlantic State University’s lab facility gets high marks for a VAV remedy, which provided much-needed quiet and significant energy savings.

Has interest in sustainability initiatives—from alternative energy and water conservation to “green” landscaping, recycling, fossil-fuel divestment, local sourcing, and more—waned on your campus?

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