TCO: In It For the Long Run

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

“We have perfect opportunity to move into a new facility and practice new habits.”

That’s how Debbie Brumbaugh, chief financial officer for the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, describes the impact of the school’s new building, just opened for the fall 2014 semester, on the Columbia campus.

Since its founding in 1919 as the School of Commerce, the Darla Moore School of Business has grown into a thriving site of academic excellence, with an enrollment of approximately 4,000 undergraduate students and 800 graduate students. The school’s faculty comprises 160 teachers, scholars and practitioners whose expertise encompasses the full spectrum of business disciplines and who were themselves educated at many of the finest universities in the world.

The school’s new home is a $106.5-million structure comprising more than 250,000 square feet on five levels. The building targets LEED Platinum with an array of technical and architectural features, including its HVAC systems, green roofs, solar volatics and daylighting, among others. Net zero is a goal.

A SUSTAINABLE FOCUS

The building is a sign of both progress and intent at the university: There are now 16 green buildings on the Columbia campus, including nine LEED-certified ones; another four certifications pending; as well as seven more buildings in design or construction that will be LEED-certified Silver or higher, according the university’s director of Sustainability, Michael Koman, one of the key people who have helped shepherd green efforts on campus. The buildings will comprise 2.5 million square feet of environmentally sustainable space by 2016, generating utility savings projected to be at least $3.2 million annually, Koman says.

The Business School’s new building is a conspicuous marker of efforts across campus — indeed by institutions nationally — to invest, build, maintain and operate sustainably and with accelerating sophistication on many fronts.

Green got the green light at the University of South Carolina in the 1990s, when officials established the university’s Environmental Advisory Committee and policies, and now environmental sustainability is woven across the campus, integrated into its culture in various ways. According to the university, “sustainability is a theme throughout academic departments, both in the curriculum and research.” The initiative has been recognized and ranked — Princeton Review’s 2013 Green Honor Roll and a STARS Gold rating, for example — and the tactics include programs that support efforts “in broadening and deepening courses related to sustainability,” an inventory that keeps tabs on related coursework across curricula, and a green residence hall that is essentially an immersion experience for students.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND RESOURCES

Planning sessions and related events in recent years indicate an active cultivation of expertise in the business community, and the university is also involved in the Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments, through which Eaton Corp., KONE Elevators, Kohler Co. and Johnson Controls have shared a broad range of insights to green efforts on campus, Koman says.

The Business School has leveraged the expertise and perspectives of its own leadership, faculty, staff and students toward green. A related strategic vision has been established — it is characterized as “a viable extension” of the school’s focus on business issues globally — and is implemented in many ways in education, research and in the daily life of the school, as well as in the construction of the school’s new building.

total cost of ownership

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

A key marker, as Koman points out, was a $2-million U.S. Department of Energy grant several years ago that is funding research on building performance at the new Moore School through energy modeling, measurement and verification. The impetus for the agency: It gets “a case study with ongoing data production” on precisely how the new building is using, and saving, energy, and what lessons could be learned for future projects.

Another marker for the Business School: securing a $489,000 “Energy Wise” rebate from the SCE&G utility company, which worked with planners and looked at how the new building’s design uses various energysaving systems and methods. To take just one of many, there is a metering plan to “collect data on building performance and occupant performance” in part to compare these factors to spaces in the old building.

STUDENT PARTICIPATION

Students are playing a key role in green programs across campus, and the effort to marshal such participation at the Business School is getting a running start: The school has an active chapter of Net Impact — active enough for students to fan out and take note of offices where lights had been left on, Brumbaugh remembers, as well as other activities, such as shredding and recycling competitions. She also describes a program in which student teams will help train building users as part of an overall building systems training program budgeted at $150,000 for the first year, an amount projected to generate a greater return-oninvestment over the life of the building, according to Brumbaugh. Thus, it’s more than just a building’s energy efficient systems; it’s also about efficient behaviors.

In fact, as Koman sees it, the new building’s opening was one point in what is essentially a “continuous commissioning process” to save money on maintenance and building performance that could be a model for others on campus.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

The new Moore School building can be seen in a broader sense as a synergistic initiative designed to help cement and propel further a culture of sustainability on departmental and campus levels. The project is also designed to achieve savings, attract key allies and funding and conduct relevant research, all while “creating a better environment for our faculty, staff and students,” Brumbaugh says.

total cost of ownership

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

It can be a long process to make a comprehensive green impact on a campus, and to keep such efforts growing, developing and increasing in their sophistication. Koman offers encouragement to others engaged in similar efforts on theirs, even when some tactics and programs don’t reach critical mass: “You can’t be everything to everyone,” he says.

Looking back, Koman compares the process of forging relationships to help implement sustainability to juggling Velcro balls. “Sooner or later,” he adds, “some will stick.”

THE TAKEAWAYS

Some takeaways about how to amplify green efforts on campus:

  • Remember that sustainability is in the specifics. Invest the time and effort needed with very vendor, contractor and subcontractor on the specs and policies needed to meet your green goals, says Brumbaugh.
  • Start small when building a network of sustainability stakeholders on and off campus: For example, propose an initial, joint effort on a limited, but needed, task or project. Grow the relationship from there, suggests Koman.
  • Find green champions, Koman says — for each initiative, who has a vested interest? Leverage faculty and students’ interests and trends in new green efforts.
  • Institutionalize. In other words, ingrain successful initiatives into your institution, so those efforts are more likely to continue. It’s about the institution, not individuals, says Koman.
  • Bear in mind that reaching out to potential allies, including funders, is more about sharing knowledge and expertise than it is about money, Koman notes.
  • Think through what your organization has to offer in return for funding and/or expertise. It could be research assistance or networking opportunities.
  • Trumpet your successes — before, during and after each forward step, such as partnering with a department or holding an event or announcing a project by an outside entity. Get word out through LISTSERVs, emails, social media, campus outlets and local print and broadcast media.
  • Find new allies, insights and expertise by getting involved in your local chapter of the United States Green Building Council (usgbc.org/organizations/chapter) and Net Impact (netimpact.org).

Net Impact (www.netimpact.org) is a nonprofit membership organization for students and professionals interested in using business skills in support of various social and environmental causes. It serves both a professional organization and one of the largest student organizations in the world among MBAs. From its central office in San Francisco, the organization supports over 200 autonomous volunteer-run chapters and a membership base of over 10,000, with programs and networking events focusing on topics such as corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, international development and environmental sustainability.

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

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