University continues with green construction

Work continues on the new environmentally friendly Business Instructional Facility on the corner of Gregory Drive and Sixth Street, Thursday. Erica Magda

Work continues on the new environmentally friendly Business Instructional Facility on the corner of Gregory Drive and Sixth Street, Thursday. Erica Magda

By Ebonique Wool

Every student at the University pays $7 toward campus sustainability and clean air, but many don’t know where some of those funds go.

Sustainability has become an increasingly popular topic as global warming has become a reality.

William McDonough, world renowned architect and designer in the sustainable development movement, defines sustainability as meeting the world needs of the generation while allowing the next generation to meet their needs.

In a presentation at the University on Oct. 5, McDonough spoke about sustainability and how the world can begin making changes.

The University has made efforts toward increasing sustainability with a number of different “green” projects on campus.

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    “I think now people are aware there is a problem,” said David Weightman, professor of industrial design.

    “There is some differentiation of what is the problem,” he added.

    Building green

    One noticeable addition to the sustainability of campus is the Business Instructional Facility.

    “It’s going to get about seven percent of its energy from solar power,” said William Sullivan, director of the University’s environmental council. “A green roof over a portion of the building will help absorb water and help keep the building cool in the summer. It’s nearly completed now.”

    The new facility is predicted to have a gold level rating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED. The certification levels range from Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

    LEED’s Green Building Rating System is used by the U.S. Green Building Council to determine the green rating of a building based on five elements: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

    “The Business Instructional Facility is an exciting thing because it’s the first Gold LEED rated building in the nation for a college of business,” said Sullivan. “In the last year Chancellor Herman said all new buildings would be at a minimum of Silver LEED, as well as all major renovations.”

    Another green building from the University was built by students for the Solar Decathlon, a national solar energy competition that concluded in late October. The University placed ninth overall in the competition competing against 19 other universities.

    After the competition was over in Washington, D.C., the original plan for the house was for it to be brought back to the University to be further studied after a tour in Chicago at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.

    “Originally we thought the house was going to be in Chicago for the month of November for the international Greenbuild Conference,” Susan McKenna, student leader of communications for the Solar Decathlon. “It may stay in Chicago longer. We think it may stay until the spring so more people can view it. It may stay there indefinitely.”

    Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is very interested in making the city one of the greenest in the country, if not the world. Already, Chicago is home to some of the most green roof tops in the major metropolitan cities, McKenna said.

    Another future development on campus will take place in Orchard Downs, the home to University family and graduate student housing. Covering 160 acres, 60 percent of which is already developed, there are plans to further develop the land into an intergenerational active adult retirement community, said Fred Coleman, director of capital development for Orchard Downs.

    Students and faculty would continue to reside in the area, in addition to active adult retirees wishing to continue a healthy lifestyle.

    The University is looking over proposals for how new building in Orchard Downs will be done and has made its wishes clear.

    “We placed a high premium on the developers to demonstrate an environment where sustainability practices would be the norm,” Coleman said. “We tried to communicate we wanted these proposals to be a model of how these practices could be brought into reality. We left it to them to integrate that into their design for landscaping, housing, land use and storm water management.”

    ‘Even small changes matter’

    A project that has been recently completed on campus to help storm water management uses landscape in a nontraditional way to help improve groundwater quality.

    Southwest of Allen Hall, 1005 W. Gregory Drive, is the Red Oak Rain Garden, which was designed and installed in one year by University professor Anton Endress’ class.

    “It’s an improvement over the way we handle storm water,” Sullivan said. “Rain is a resource and we want to keep it. The idea is to capture the rainwater and allow it to slowly percolate into the ground.”

    The Red Oak Rain Garden is the first of its kind on campus and is “Building a Lasting University Environment,” or BLUE, an Illinois faculty and student project, funded by Facilities and Services in conjunction with the Environmental Council, according to the University Web site.

    Within the past few years there have been many changes to the University in both policy and design.

    “Every step we take should be applauded,” McDonough said. “Even small changes matter because they can aggregate bigger ones.”

    He said he felt now was an exciting time for design and architecture because there is a world of opportunity when almost everything will need to be reinvented. McDonough’s speech at the University was well received with every chair filled in the auditorium – compared to the entire population of the school, however, only a small fraction of students and faculty attended.

    This is reflective of the feelings of some on campus. Some students and faculty on campus feel that sustainability has not been publicized or brought to attention as much as it could be.

    “By the chatter I hear by my co-workers and fellow students, a lot of people are concerned about our environment and what we can do about it,” said Christina Chin, graduate student. “We were wondering why we haven’t heard more about things that are going on.”

    Chin said she felt that students may be encouraged to become more involved if they were more aware of sustainable practices at the school.

    Weightman said sustainability should be brought into curricula at the school to show the students it is something important to address.

    “People may have different views on how critical it is or how urgent the situation is,” he said. “I think students are aware of the problem and the world they’ll be going into and that they’re part of the changing process, and that’s the good part.”