Inside Look: Sustainable campus buildings

Expectations of energy efficiency and green facilities features
By: | Issue: September, 2015
August 21, 2015

Adding green and sustainable elements to facilities during new construction and renovations is no longer an option for colleges and universities—it’s the expectation.

“Sustainability is increasingly becoming the standard for construction and master planning in higher ed,” says Monika Urbanski, STARS program analyst with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Officials at individual campuses and large university systems have established green building policies and standards for minimum LEED-certification levels.

With the variety of building types on a college campus, there are several opportunities to make any space efficient. Dining facilities can incorporate energy-efficient kitchen equipment and convenient composting and recycling spots. Residence halls can have plumbing that uses less water, and features such as plants and even vegetative walls can increase indoor air quality.

Sustainably designed facilities can be nice to look at—and to live and work within. “Aesthetics and sustainability are very complementary to each other,” Urbanski says. “Not only do these elements create a better quality of life for the occupants, they’re often ergonomic and more comfortable.”

Higher ed institutions also focus more closely on what happens after a building opens, Urbanski says.

Monitoring systems help track energy efficiency and can spot problem areas, such as inefficient windows. They also help building users to want to do their part to keep energy use down.

Green projects also present valuable learning opportunities for students, who help design energy-efficient buildings and contribute to the green certification process. Elements such as vegetative roofs, for instance, serve a dual purpose—collecting and draining stormwater, and enhancing the science curriculum.

“Colleges are uniquely positioned to engage all members of the campus community by creating partnerships and initiatives that result in a more sustainable environment,” Urbanski says.

The images above highlight the interior views and the impact of green campus buildings.