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The ‘Greening’ Of Colleges In San Diego County

We've been hearing a lot lately about "LEED," or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Several colleges in San Diego are leading the way and building projects incorporating "green" features.

The San Diego Community College District is using $1.5 billion in voter-approved bond funds to build new teaching facilities and make major renovations to existing buildings.

One of those projects is the West City Point Loma Campus.

The campus is reducing stormwater runoff, which pollutes the ocean, using what look like small ponds at the front and rear entrances of the new building.

But architect Greg Roberson said the ponds are actually detention basins.


We've been hearing a lot lately about "LEED," or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Several colleges in San Diego are leading the way and building projects incorporating "green" features.

"What they do is they capture all the rainwater that's coming off the roof, they drain down and into these ponds and then it's detained on-site," said Roberson. "And then ultimately percolates into the ground. That recharges the aquifer locally and it helps filter and clean that water rather than running off-site like it typically does with most buildings."

The parking lot is paved with a porous material so water is absorbed into the ground, which means more water is saved.

Roberson said the West City Campus building was constructed with about 20 percent recycled content. Even the bathroom counters are made of compressed recycled newspapers.

From the roof to the floor to classrooms and parking lots, sustainable features touch nearly every part of the campus.

Roberson said another benefit of smart design is reduced maintenance.

"Instead of vinyl-type of flooring we used linoleum which in itself is a recycled material it actually doesn't require waxing," said Roberson. "So, there's less maintenance that's involved with that. But also the waxes and the cleaners and the things that would normally go into maintaining a floor aren't ultimately put back into the environment as waste."

The community college district decided projects using the bond funds will be at least LEED Silver.

The LEED rating system has four categories: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Buildings earn points based on how many "green" features they incorporate.

The recently completed Skills Center at the district's Educational Cultural Complex uses photovoltaic solar panels on carport structures and high-efficiency plumbing fixtures.

Those are among the features that helped the Skills Center achieve the second-highest LEED certification: Gold.

One of the district's major projects is now under construction near its downtown San Diego campus.

When completed in April, the Career Technology Center will house the school's nursing, cosmetology and digital arts programs.

David Umstot is the district's Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management.

"And we're also generating solar power here on the building both on our rooftop as well as a vertical configuration on our parking structure," Umstot said. "Which will generate approximately seven-percent of our electrical needs."

But it's not just the community college district using the LEED system.

As part of Cal State policy, San Diego State University also has a sustainable building strategy.

Steve Lincoln is SDSU's sustainability coordinator.

"It's not only the right thing to do, but I think as you look at the lifecycle of our buildings since we're going to have those buildings from now until the day that they're replaced or what have you," said Lincoln. "We have to look at measures that will save us money and energy conservation is certainly one of those."

The school's Mission Bay Aquatic Center is one of several campus buildings tapping into solar energy.

The aquatic center meets its electrical needs from rooftop solar panels.

UC San Diego has been at the forefront of sustainability beginning with some of the earliest research into climate change.

But UCSD isn't just talking about the environment.

Russ Thackston with UCSD said the campus uses LEED principles in building projects and continues to add solar panels on new buildings and parking structures.

"We've invested over $60 million in energy efficiency projects that have reduced our energy consumption by 20 percent. In addition to that it saves us $12 million a year," said Thackston.

He says UCSD's goal is to meet 30 percent of its power requirement from renewable energy by 2015.

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