The California Architectural Foundation gave UC Merced the Owings Award for Environmental Excellence, adding to the slew of awards the campus has already won. The group recognized the campus’s first development phase for its holistic view toward sustainability.
“UC Merced, Phase 1, is honored for adhering to its ideals and for putting the experience and well-being of students first. This project is both a physical and an emotional anchor for the San Joaquin Valley,” the Owings jury wrote. “It responds both to the environmental constraints of two agricultural irrigation canals and adjacent vernal pool grasslands as well as the needs of a community with some of the nation’s poorest economic indicators.”
The campus isn’t just physically sustainable, the jurors noted, but socially sustainable, too, saying the university is a “vibrant, academic space in a region with few opportunities for young people to experience the environment of a college campus – a definite ‘game-changer.’”
UC Merced has repeatedly been honored by the design and construction industry as an innovator in building a campus green from the ground up.
“We’re extremely proud of these awards,” said Campus Architect Tom Lollini. “We’ve been dedicated to green principles since the campus was conceived, and have made every effort possible to make sustainability part of the very fabric of the campus.”
The campus’s master plan has won nine awards, including several from the American Institute of Architects, the International Green Industry Hall of Fame, and the California Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award.
Though UC Merced has been honored for “cutting-edge sustainability in design and construction” of its buildings, the campus undertakes a myriad of sustainability challenges, including its Triple Net Zero commitment to create zero net landfill waste, consume zero net energy and produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
The campus pioneered the use of energy benchmarks, setting increasingly aggressive energy budgets for its buildings. While the initial buildings were designed to perform 20 percent better than year-2000 benchmarks calibrated by the California Institute for Energy and the Environment, its most recent additions are designed to perform 50 percent better than these targets. Recycling and composting, water conservation, landfill diversion and energy management are incorporated into each new project, from residence halls to labs.
By now, UC Merced is no stranger to being honored for its sustainability efforts. The new year will likely bring more recognition, too, as campus planners expect LEED platinum certification on the four newest campus projects.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s certification of The Summits, Science and Engineering Building 2 – which is scheduled to open in fall — and the new Student Services Building would bring the campus total to 17 LEED certificates: one silver, eight gold and eight platinum. UC Merced continues to be the only campus in the nation with LEED certification for all its facilities.