Two years ago, Kermit the Frog graced our campus.
Kermit is green, and so was the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management Building. That project was originally slated to be just another boring energy-sucking office building, until the environmental science faculty and students put a stop to “business as usual.”
They collectively demanded Bren get Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, the best way to assure environmental standards in construction. The faculty and students’ effort resulted in Kermit meeting the chancellor for a photo shoot in front of the first Platinum LEED-certified laboratory building in the country. UCSB had established itself as a leader in green design.
Our leadership, however, is starting to ring hollow. We gained national attention by achieving Platinum LEED building certification. However, the five other building projects under construction will not achieve such high standards. High-rated buildings not only save electricity, water and natural gas, but also have been shown to improve student and worker quality of life through increased natural light, better ventilation and substantially less off-gassing of toxic airborne chemicals like formaldehyde. But most important to the current administration, these buildings are generally constructed without increased up-front costs. Better materials and insulation costs can be made up with less heating, ventilation and air-conditioning expenditures. The certification process is an additional cost, but it ensures that the green building claim is not just hype.
Fortunately, UCSB has two LEED certified staff members able to certify 70 to 80 percent of a project at minimal cost.
The prestige this lends to UCSB continues, as we may lead the UC system in voting to be the first UC campus to require all new buildings to be LEED Silver certified. Our Mediterranean climate allows us to easily set such a standard. In doing so, we also save a great deal of money.
Nevertheless, our administration is balking. The Campus Planning Committee, which had agreed to vote on a LEED Silver certification for all new buildings today, instead tabled the vote until Dec.16, during winter break. Are they afraid to give the students what they want?
Doubt pervades all mention of the Campus Planning Committee and this upcoming vote, despite the fact that the UC Regents resoundingly supported green building and renewable energy development for all campuses. Instead, UCSB shortsightedly focuses on coming in under-budget, resulting in inefficiency that will stand for 50 plus years. By spending more attention on green building in project planning, however, this campus could avoid expensive revisions and costly inefficiencies, and could maintain our status as leaders instead of “Platinum” Bren School has-beens.
Ironically, these advancements can be made without additional cost. The administration has said that “students don’t want to spend extra money on green buildings.” Considering that such “extra money” has been shown insubstantial – as low as 0.4 percent of total project costs to certify – and that the long term benefits are huge, such statements clearly don’t reflect our interests.
In committing to LEED Silver certification, this campus will affirm the three e’s of sustainability: ecology, economics and equity. We will be reducing our footprint on this sensitive coastal zone, saving substantially for our future and providing a healthier place for UCSB staff, faculty and students to live and work.
Discussion of this item will still occur today from 2-4 p.m. in the UCen State Street Room.
Edward France is a senior environmental studies major.