UC Merced is one of the greenest campuses in the nation, with 100 percent of its new construction having earned LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Those certifications have been earned on the basis of building construction practices, such as integrating recycled materials and diverting tons of waste from landfills for reuse, better mechanical and electrical systems
Now, though, it’s time for the campus’s buildings to earn a new kind of LEED certification in the existing buildings operations and maintenance, or EBOM, category.
Sustainability is a responsibility everyone on the campus shares, and starting this summer, everyone can find new ways to participate, Director of Energy and Sustainability Zuhair Mased said.
Mased and Energy Manager Varick Erickson have begun the long process of verifying sustainable practices in campus buildings, in categories such as energy efficiency, garbage sorting, recycling and reuse, procurement, landscaping and even tenants’ transportation habits such as how many people carpool.
“Staff and faculty members can help us tremendously,” Mased said. “They are an integral part of the process, because it is all about healthier buildings and a better working environment. This certification helps assure optimal and efficient operations, reduce downtime and create healthier work environments.”
Erickson and Mased began in the library building, where staff members will have already received an anonymous two-minute online survey. They also might be approached for information about their building’s indoor air quality, heating and cooling, trash habits and more.
“The tenants of each building are our customers, and we need to understand their work spaces,” Mased said. “This is all about making each building better, and protecting the investment the university has made in sustainable buildings.”
The short surveys are critical to amassing the many points needed to earn UC Merced’s building operations the USGBC’s highest LEED honor, platinum certification.
But it isn’t just about having plaques on buildings, Erickson said. The more sustainable the buildings, the more money the campus has for other purposes. Plus, sustainability is woven into the very fabric of UC Merced, from its landscaping to its purchasing practices – most everyone on campus is already aware of the campus’s sustainability goals, such as the Triple Net Zero pledge.
The process for auditing each building takes months or even a year, and each building will be assessed every five years to maintain or increase certification designations. Part of the process is designing the audits and surveys, and part involves just gathering data from different departments. Then, during the performance period, the Facilities team, which includes students, will closely monitor all building operations to prove to the USGBC that each operates as efficiently as possible.
“Buildings change over time,” Erickson said. “This is just a way to recheck and make sure we’re living up to the promises of our sustainably built campus.”