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Campus Continues to Set Precedents in Sustainability

August 3, 2015

UC Merced is the only university in the country to have all of its buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. That body of work was honored at the spring conference of the group’s Central California chapter, where UC Merced was recognized for having the most LEED-certified buildings in the region.

The Classroom and Office Building will be the subject of the LEED Lab.The campus, which received the chapter’s “Owner with Most LEED Buildings” award, now has 15 buildings with LEED certifications for new construction and one certified for operations and maintenance. Sustainability Director Colleen McCormick, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, said the precedent set by UC Merced sends an important message.

You can do this, and it doesn’t necessarily cost more,” she said.

Mark Maxwell, assistant director of construction and sustainability, has long been a driving force behind the campus’s sustainable building practices. The campus is now being recognized through the LEED Operations and Maintenance: Existing Buildings rating system, which Maxwell said demonstrates a commitment to the environment but also makes economic sense.

LEED buildings provide lower operating costs, reduce energy and water consumption, and provide more healthful and productive environments for occupants,” he said.

For a campus on the cutting edge of sustainable design and construction, it’s only natural that UC Merced would begin training the next generation of leaders, as well. That’s where the LEED Lab comes into play.

In partnership with Engineering Service Learning, the class will put students to work documenting and certifying the campus’s applications for the LEED operations and maintenance program rating system, which are much more time-consuming than the building construction certifications.As part of the class, students will work on an additional certification for COB.

In addition to providing a service for the campus’s sustainability efforts, the class will also prepare students to take the LEED Green Associate or Accredited Professional exams to be credentialed in managing green building projects. With new jobs specifying the need for green building expertise, the LEED professional credential shows a clear commitment to professional growth.

This isn’t just for engineering students. It’s for any student who wants to be marketable in sustainability-related fields,” McCormick said.

The class, which starts in a few weeks, will focus first on the Classroom and Office Building (COB). Students will spend a significant amount of time with the staff members who have been responsible for UC Merced’s sustainability practices.

Tom Hothem, assistant director of the Merritt Writing Program, is among those planning the curriculum. What makes the class unique, he said, is the number of people involved. To determine the sustainability of the building’s operations, students will interact with those who have designed the building as well as those who actively maintain it and those who use it.

This opportunity to assess a building’s effectiveness in fulfilling its mission provides a rare glimpse into the many interwoven networks that make our campus as efficient as it is,” Hothem said.

A few spaces are still available in the 1-unit class for Fall 2015. E-mail Engineering Service Learning for registration information.