Administrators and a celebrity puppet celebrated the opening of what has been deemed one of the “greenest” buildings in the U.S. and a model for future construction within the UC system at the official opening of the Bren building Friday afternoon.

The building features countertops decorated with broken beer bottles, doorframes made of old Buicks and restroom stalls constructed of plastic soda bottles. For these efforts, it is the second building in the country to be awarded a platinum rating -the highest rating – from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). A “green building” must incorporate the latest elements of energy-saving designs, including utilization of recycled materials and natural light, heating, and cooling; reclaimed water; and energy-efficient light fixtures.

Kermit the Frog, the famous puppet from “Sesame Street,” made a guest appearance at the grand opening of the $26 million, 85,000-square-foot building, which will be open for classes Fall Quarter.

“This place is an environmental landmark,” the frog said. “It’s not easy being green, but I’ve learned from the Bren School it’s easier than you think.”

Since the successful completion of the Bren building, UCSB now requires all capital projects to meet LEED certification requirements, Assistant Dean for Planning and Administration Mo Lovegreen said. Of the five new buildings to be constructed by 2004, the Marine Science building meets the requirements for the silver rating and the San Clemente graduate student housing building is planned to hold a gold rating.

“Although we are proud of our distinction, we will be hugely disappointed if we are [still] the greenest UCSB building 10 years from now,” said earth science professor Jeff Dozier, who will be teaching in the Bren building in the fall. “We hope to set a standard for what we do in the future, and doing so will require a few changes in our policies, but the cost differences are not significant.”

The Bren building was able to meet the requirements for the silver from $22 million in state bonds, while less than 2 percent of the funds went toward features that would give Bren a gold ranking. Private donations allowed the building to reach the platinum level, with a final cost of $26 million.

“The Bren School’s building has pioneered the concept for green facilities in UC,” said Gary Matteson, the former UC director of energy and utilities planning. “Since the Bren School’s project has been initiated, other campuses now have green facilities on their drawing boards.”

The UCSB chapter of the California Public Interest Research Group and UCSB Environmental Affairs Board are working together to pressure UCSB into requiring at least a silver LEED standard for all buildings on campus, including ones that are already built.

“It is unfortunate that we go and build the Bren school and then we turn around and build something like Manzanita that has absolutely no environmental consciousness,” CalPIRG campus organizer Megan Jennings said.

UC Merced, the 10th UC campus, will use data from the Bren project and is expected to open in 2004 as the first fully “green” campus in the UC system. Each of its facilities will be oriented toward the LEED certification and ranking system.