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Sustainable Construction And Renovation On Campus Help Cut Costs, Attract Students

By Lona Rerick - May 2013 - Green


Facing a still sluggish economy and less funding from state governments, many colleges and universities are turning to sustainable construction and renovation on campus to help cut costs and attract students.

As the economy slowly warms up, campuses are giving renewed consideration to new construction and renovation projects. Facility managers, strapped with tightening budgets, look to rein in the costs of operating campus structures. Administrators look to the creation of a legacy that meaningfully confronts today's real world challenges of limits to natural resources and climate adaptation. In addition, potential students are drawn to campuses that comprehensively prioritize sustainability.

But facility managers as well as campus administrators face a challenge if they are new to the process of building or renovating major structures sustainably. Campus project leaders need to approach this process with a clear definition of what sustainability means to their institution and a set of priorities for how the potential building project fits into that campus vision.

Seats At The Table

One crucial goal is to have an integrated design process, one that reflects the inputs of all constituents. For that reason, all disciplines and points of view need to be represented.

On the campus side, this should include the senior decision-makers, including appropriate vice presidents and administrators, in-house engineering and facility management.

Users, including students, must be involved as well. This is important because they will articulate the sustainability desires of the enrollment community. But it's also important because they will provide valuable information about students' preferences for design and usage; notably, insights into desired learning, study and teaching environments.

An integrated design workshop lasting one or more days should kick off the sustainable building project. Kicking off the project with a meeting that brings representatives of all the important parties together to share analysis, brainstorm and form project goals will provide team unity and buy-in. Also, early decisions tend to be more innovative and have higher returns on investment than those made late in the design process.

There are many targets to aim for when pursuing "sustainable" or "resiliently designed" buildings. For a campus, two no-brainer targets are energy and water usage. Both will show real dollar utility bill paybacks for years to come.

If current buildings are individually metered, start by looking at what amounts of energy and water the existing buildings on the campus use each year. Cross check energy usage numbers against regional averages using the EPA's free Target Finder tool. Water usage databases are just emerging, so it may be necessary to ask the design team to dig into the latest research to establish comparable data if possible. Also, have the design team research and share numbers for the best performing buildings similar to the one being planned. Once comparable usages are known, the team can set preliminary EUI (energy use index) and WUI (water use index) project targets.

Princeton Review has again partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council's Center for Green Schools to publish the 2013 version of the "Guide To 322 Green Colleges," a comprehensive, free document that discusses the green attributes of 322 colleges and universities across the country. Download the document here: www.centerforgreenschools.org/greenguide





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