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Green Building

In: Other Topics

Submitted By dscostantine
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If you walk up Poly Canyon Road and take a left, crossing Brizzolara Creek, you will come to the agriculture portion of main campus. The abbotoir stands next to the bull pen and the creek. The bridge crosses a fish ladder to aid the salmon back up the creek to where they can spawn. If you continue walking you will come to a reservoir with pumps and machinery used by engineering students. On the other side of the reservoir, there is a small bird sanctuary and beyond are fields that are often full of students learning how to survey the land. Behind you a stand of trees blocks out the bustle of campus life and in front of you the fields are ringed by beautiful mountains. But this is all about to change. The abbatoir is going to be moved and the fields will become the concrete foundations of a new residential complex: Student Housing North.

Student Housing North is a huge residential development that was approved and added to the Master Plan in 2001 and is projected to be completed in stages beginning in 2007. The complex will be comprised mainly of apartment style upper class housing but will also include restaurant and retail spaces. The plan is to double the number of students living on campus. The project will include two new parking structures in order to support the increase of students.

A lot of controversy surrounds this aspect of the new project. The development aims to reduce traffic and congestion because 2,700 students will be living on campus instead of commuting to school everyday. But the problem is that Student Housing North is going to sit right next to Brizzolara Creek, an environmentally sensitive area, and a new bridge will have to be built to accommodate the road leading to the complex and the new parking structures which will have a negative influence on the creek. But on the other hand it will reduce the number of commuters and will create a living and learning community. The plan includes a village center with shops and dinning facilities so the inhabitants will not feel the need to drive off campus.

Another large controversy over Student Housing North is that many people feel that as a polytechnic university with one of the leading architecture and environmental design schools in the nation, Cal Poly has an obligation to expand yet still minimize the effects this growth has on the environment. They believe that Student Housing North should be a green building which is built with certain sustainability standards in mind. Some of these standards are using local or regional building materials to cut down on the cost and pollution of transportation and the use renewable energy resources efficiently. These standards are both qualities that help a building obtain LEED certification.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system developed by the United States Green Building Council. LEED was created to transform the building market and raise consumer awareness of the benefits of building sustainably. Companies apply for certification and after LEED assesses such factors as water conservation, materials, and energy resources, they award different levels of certification. Green buildings and obtaining LEED certification is a growing trend with commercial and residential developers. Building more for sustainability has become popular among universities as well.

Cal Poly doesn’t actually have any LEED certified buildings due to the lack of funding for the certification process but some aspects of newer buildings on campus meet LEED standards. Advocates of a sustainable campus believe that Cal Poly has the opportunity to become the forerunner of green design and sustainability by using Student Housing North as a model for all other universities but the current plan is not enough. Current plans include some steps towards sustainability such as being energy efficient by using natural ventilation and relying on lots of daylight. Unfortunately, these steps are just the beginning of a green building.

Cal Poly claims to have an interest in sustainability and does things like putting out a Sustainability Report Card every year recording energy and water use and then outlining what can be done to improve the campus and make it more green. The only problem is that, even though it is a good first step, it is often not followed up on. All California State Universities (CSUs) must follow the CSU Sustainability Policy and Executive Order 917. The order outlines goals and requirements for energy conservation, building practices, and physical plant management. They also designate the CSU Sustainable Design Guidelines. These guidelines require a design team instead of a single architect to work on all projects and the team has to include at least one LEED Accredited Professional. Cal Poly is adhering to all of these rules and has even added some of their own such as the a sustainability investigation requirement in the Facilities Study Phase that all new plans must undergo before being passed and added to the Master Plan (Mary Avila Project Manager and Campus Sustainability Coordinator). These guidelines are a good start and meet minimum LEED requirements but just doing the minimum to get by is not what sustainability is about. Cal Poly has the ability to push the limits and be a leader among the CSU system and all other universities with the Student Housing North project but they are not seizing that opportunity. When confronted about the issue, the developers say that any further steps that could be taken to make the building more sustainable are to expensive or they just dismiss them entirely (Shawna Galassi for New Times).

Other new building projects are already underway around campus besides Student Housing North. New engineering buildings are being built in two phases and will be complete for classes in Fall of 2005. During construction of the first phase that has already been completed some precautions were taken to avoid making a bigger impact on the environment than was necessary. Contamination of Brizzolara Creek was prevented by stopping sediment from entering the creek or the adjacent storm sewer and the excess soil from the site was removed and used for another campus project. The buildings keep with the master plan in that all academic buildings are clustered together in the core south of the creek (Mary Avila Project Manager and Campus Sustainability Coordinator). But once again this is not up to the standards it should be if Cal Poly were truly interested in becoming a green campus like they claim.

All this focus on sustainability is important because we are exploiting the earth and it will soon reach its carrying capacity. Cal Poly is using lack of funding as a shield to shirk their responsibility. Money is not the issue because there is plenty of funding available if only the time was taken to look for it and even if it is more expensive up front, sustainable buildings save money and resources over time. As a polytechnic university, I believe it is our responsibility to educate and set an example for the rest of the world about these issues that are so closely related to the future of architecture and engineering. Cal Poly needs to step up their actions to match the talk of becoming a sustainable campus. Cal Poly is missing a large opportunity to become the forerunner of the field that they are supposed to specialize in.…...

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