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S.D. Colleges Undergo Green Renovation

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Video published February 26, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce takes a look at how several San Diego college campuses are incorporating sustainable design practices into existing buildings.

JOANNE FARYON (Host): One of the Golden State's new slogans is "Welcome to Green California." The state is leading the way on energy efficiency, sustainability and conservation. In fact, California was the first state in the nation to adopt green building code standards. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce takes a look at how San Diego's colleges and universities are stepping up with their own green construction projects.

ED JOYCE (Reporter): The San Diego Community College District is in the midst of a $1.5 billion construction program. The money, from voter-approved bond funds, is paying for new teaching facilities and major renovations. One of those projects is the new building on the West City Point Loma campus. Sustainability features start outside the building. The campus is reducing stormwater runoff that pollutes the ocean using what looks like small ponds at the front and rear entrances of the building. But architect Greg Roberson says they're actually detention basins.

GREG ROBERSON (Architect): "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. 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."

JOYCE: Roberson was the lead architect on the west city campus project. He says the parking lot is paved with a porous material, which allows the water to be absorbed into the ground. All district construction and major renovations using the bond money are designed to reach the highest-possible LEED or - leadership in energy and environmental design - standard. LEED certification looks for things like efficiency in water and energy use and sustainable or recycled materials.

The LEED rating system was created by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage the development of sustainable buildings.

ROBERSON: "In fact the fencing right behind you is a recycled material that goes into that. The horizontal slats are recycled. The steel in virtually all of the buildings have a very significant recycled content. So we made sure that that was part of this feature. Also the masonry uses recycled content."

JOYCE: Even bathroom counters are made of recycled newspapers. From the stairs to the roof to bathrooms and classrooms, LEED standards touch nearly every part of the building. Another benefit of smart design is low maintenance.

ROBERSON: "Instead of vinyl-type of flooring we use linoleum which in itself is a recycled material. It actually doesn't require waxing, 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."

JOYCE: Roberson says the lobby floor uses stone, which is expected to last for the building’s lifetime, compared to carpet, which is less durable and needs replacement. Another district project is the new skills center at the district's educational cultural complex in San Diego. The career training facility uses photovoltaic solar panels on carport structures. It also uses high efficiency plumbing fixtures that reduce water consumption by more than 40 percent compared to standard buildings. The classrooms were designed to maximize daylight, reducing the need for artificial lighting. District architect Lance Lareau says it's not just the new projects that are going green.

LANCE LAREAU (District Architect): "We're retroactively commissioning our older buildings right now to try to bring them up to current code. Some of our buildings were built, as I'm sure you know, back in the 50s and they're energy hogs."

JOYCE: One of the district’s largest building projects is the career technology center in downtown San Diego. The new facility will house the nursing, cosmetology and digital arts programs. It's one of four new buildings planned for the downtown campus. The building is using recycled glass and solar energy.

DAVID UMSTOT (Vice Chancellor, Facilities Management, SDCCD): "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. Which will generate approximately seven percent of our electrical needs."

JOYCE: David Umstot with the community college district says the project is expected to be completed in April and is on track to gain LEED’s second-highest gold certification. But it's not just the community college district using green building standards. San Diego State University also has a sustainable building strategy.

STEVE LINCOLN (SDSU 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. We have to look at measures that will save us money and energy conservation is certainly one of those."

JOYCE: SDSU's Mission Bay aquatic center uses solar to produce 100 percent of its electrical needs. Solar panels are also used on other campus buildings. Along with SDSU and the community college district, UC San Diego also generates electricity using renewable energy such as solar. Russ Thackston with UCSD says the school's goal is to get 30 percent of its power needs from renewable energy by 2015.

RUSS THACKSTON (Assistant Vice Chancellor, UCSD): "Our carbon footprint, you know, kindness to the environment is to reduce the amount of water we use and the amount of power we use. And for the power that we do use, we want to use as much renewable sources such as solar and wind. So the first thing that UC San Diego did was 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."

JOYCE: UCSD also is incorporating LEED principles in all of its campus construction, including new campus student housing projects.

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