How ‘green’ is the new campus center?

Alicia Bones

Lawrence — or more accurately, part of Lawrence — is going green. Lawrence’s new campus center, with its completion scheduled for winter 2009, is aiming for a silver rating in the national environmental buildings ratings.The U.S. Green Building Council developed a national standard, LEED, short for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” with different criteria to determine whether or not a building’s design and execution is environmentally minded.

The purpose of this organization is to monitor and reward the environmentally friendly design, construction, and operation of so-called “green buildings.”

LEED looks at five areas in determining whether or not a building qualifies for LEED certification.

First, it looks at the sustainability of the site development, or how the building can renew resources within itself for the long term.

Then it looks at a building’s water conservation, energy efficiency, and materials choices.
Finally, LEED makes sure the materials indoors, like paint and carpet, meet its standards.

LEED certification is important to preserve the environment, but a LEED-certified building also has cheaper operating costs and may qualify for money from the government.
Environmentally, a LEED-certified building conserves energy and water, reduces greenhouse gases, and reduces waste sent to landfills.

Economically, LEED buildings have lower operating costs due to renewable energy and water conservation components of the buildings.

Also, LEED-certified buildings qualify for governmental tax rebates and zoning allowances.

Mark Geall of Tanesay Development, who spoke on campus Oct. 23 as part of a three-part environmental protection series, explained more about environmentally friendly development.
In his lecture titled “What’s a green neighborhood? Challenges Faced by Green Developers in Appleton,” Geall spoke about his RiverHeath development project, which will be beneath the College Avenue Bridge by the river.

The RiverHeath development will consist of 15 to 20 acres of residential spaces, shops, and restaurants and is to be a part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Neighborhood Development Pilot Program.

Geall explained how his development got this green certification. Because his development is using the space currently occupied by a warehouse and not natural space, Geall said, “When you start building, you’re already half-way to certification.”

Other environmental factors Geall spoke of in his presentation, which are applicable to the campus center, were parking decks instead of parking lots to save natural space; more expensive, specially designed windows to save on heating and cooling bills; and green roofs, or gardens on roofs, to reduce water run-off.
Although green buildings are more expensive to build, Geall said that the expense will be “paid back in a reasonable amount of time.”

Lawrence is aiming for the third highest LEED certification. More extensive measures could be taken to achieve a gold or platinum level, rather than Lawrence’s goal of a silver level.
To achieve a silver level, a building must have an innovative environmental design, be built with local materials and low-emitting carpet and paint, and have a good system for waste management. It also must have systems for water conservation and energy efficiency, among other things.

Lawrence could improve its ratings by changing a number of things in the building’s construction. It could use a greater percentage of renewable energy and green power or energy generated by natural sources such as wind power than it is using now.

It could also use recovered building materials from demolished structures in a more innovative design. Finally, it could have more windows to reduce heating and cooling energy.

Some students wonder about Lawrence’s commitment to being an environmentally friendly campus, since currently the campus center is the only LEED-certified building on campus.
Although it is a positive step in Lawrence’s commitment to the environment to make its goal a silver LEED certification, many students feel silver is not good enough.

Sophomores Dario LaPoma and Sonia Emmons, both members of the environmental-awareness club Greenfire, question why Lawrence doesn’t aim for a higher rating.

LaPoma said he felt “like they could go for the higher ranking” because they received an “anonymous donation” which they could “use for whatever they want.”

Sonia agreed, saying that if Lawrence is going to “try and be environmentally friendly, we might as well go all the way.”
She said the Lawrence campus is environmentally aware and that there would be student support for a LEED gold or platinum rating.

She also said that students might be “less than thrilled” when they find out Lawrence only aims for a silver rating for the campus center development.

Sophomore Justin Berkowitz said that if there was some reason the campus center “can’t reach that level, we as a student body should be told why.