MERCED, Calif. – The University of California, Merced,
continues to strike “gold” with the U.S. Green Building Council
(USGBC) and has made several recent steps towards achieving a
Two more campus buildings - Sierra Terraces and the Joseph
Edward Gallo Recreation & Wellness Center – have earned LEED
Gold certification by the USGBC for excellence in environmentally
responsible design, construction and operation, adding strong
support for the university’s goal of becoming the greenest campus
in the country.
The new certifications bring the number of LEED Gold buildings
on campus to six, with a seventh earning LEED Silver. No other
university in the United States has earned LEED Silver or better
for every building on campus. Four more buildings under
construction or recently completed are expected to achieve LEED Gold.
“For a university to earn Gold certification for six of its
buildings is unprecedented,” said Thomas Lollini, FAIA, associate
vice chancellor for physical planning, design and construction. “As
the first new American research university of the 21st century, UC
Merced is leading the way to a sustainable future. Our goal is not
just to become the greenest campus in the country but also to share
what we’ve learned for the benefit of society as a whole.”
Sierra Terraces are two, two-story residence halls. Opened in
2007, the facility was the campus’ second green building housing
project. It includes 203 two-person suites, lounge rooms, study
rooms, a residence advisors unit and data centers.
The Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation & Wellness Center is a
two-story, 36,610-gross-square-foot building located in the core
section of campus. It houses recreation and exercise facilities on
the first floor and the H. Rajender Reddy Student Health Center on
the second floor.
Previously, the university’s Science & Engineering Building,
the Leo & Dottie Kolligian Library, Central Plant complex and
the Classroom & Office Building were awarded LEED Gold
certification. The Valley Terraces and Yablokoff-Wallace Dining
Commons complex earned LEED Silver.
The USGBC is an independent, nonprofit organization that
promotes sustainable building practices under its Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) program. It rates
buildings for environmental performance on a five-tier scale,
awarding points for meeting or exceeding standards on 69 different
measures, including energy usage, air quality, natural lighting,
waste diversion and recycling.
On the USGBC scale, Gold is the second-highest level of
achievement – one level above Silver. UC Merced was the first UC
campus to set a minimum target of LEED Silver for all new
construction and that benchmark was included in the university’s
2002 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), a comprehensive land use
plan that all University of California campuses prepare to guide
their physical growth.
“We were the first university that committed to a minimum
LEED Silver for all buildings and we exceeded that ambitious goal,”
Lollini said. “As a result of this success, we recently reset our
goal in our 2009 LRDP to minimum LEED Gold and hope to reach
Platinum, whenever feasible.
“The LRDP goes even further, establishing what we call a ‘triple
zero commitment’ to achieve zero net energy usage, contribute zero
waste to landfills, and produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions
by 2020. We are the first university in the country to set our
sights for sustainability so high.”
The university plans to accomplish its triple zero commitment by
building energy-efficient buildings, producing renewable energy on
campus, recycling, reducing excess consumption and by preventing or
offsetting excess greenhouse gas emissions. The campus is exploring
the potential of applying technology and design features to achieve
water neutrality, an emerging concept of reducing water use so that
no new water resources are needed.
Since its inception, UC Merced has been a leader in sustainable
planning and environmental design. As the campus grows, new
development will be designed, planned and sited to demonstrate
innovation and minimize impacts on the environment.
In the best spirit of public education, campus officials are
sharing the university’s sustainable practices with others
throughout the San Joaquin Valley and beyond, showcasing strategies
that make wise use of water, energy, sunlight and other resources.
“We are proud to develop a model for others to follow,” Lollini
said. “UC Merced has demonstrated what is possible.”
The university’s participation in the LEED program is one of
several examples that demonstrate the campus’ commitment to
CLIMATE ACTION PLAN
The university recently unveiled its Climate Action Plan, a
blueprint outlining the university’s plan to achieve climate
sustainability. “This plan puts the high-level climate-related
commitments in the Long Range Development Plan into action,” said
John Elliott, a senior engineer for the campus’ facilities
management division. “It establishes our basic approach to meeting
the challenges of climate change and starts a dialog with the
campus community to significantly limit our impact on the environment.”
The Climate Action Plan’s primary goals are to use as little
energy as possible, generate power renewably to achieve a zero net
energy campus, and offset greenhouse gas emissions to achieve
climate neutrality - all by 2020. A zero net energy goal means the
campus will generate from renewable sources as much energy as
consumed annually. To help achieve the Climate Action Plan’s second
goal of generating renewable power, UC Merced will install an
8-acre, 1 megawatt solar photovoltaic array this summer. The system
will produce about two-thirds of the campus’ electricity on a
summer afternoon and 20 percent of its annual electricity needs.
The project received California Solar Initiative funding
administered through Pacific Gas & Electric.
RENEWABLE ENERGY GRANT
The campus was also awarded a pending $1 million Renewable-Based
Energy Secure Communities (RESCO) grant from the California Energy
Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research program. The project,
a collaboration between the university’s facilities division and
School of Engineering, explores the integration of three energy
strategies: energy efficiency, solar photovoltaics and plasma
gasification, a method that cleanly produces power from sewage and
“The RESCO grant is intended for so-called
renewable-energy-secure communities who are trying to produce their
power renewably,” Elliott said. “It recognizes that we know how to
do one-off renewable energy projects, but that it is more
challenging to create a portfolio of renewable energy technologies
that meets our needs. This research will help the university
develop a seasonal approach to achieving zero net energy use.”
The success of UC Merced’s LEED program, along with the Climate
Action Plan, the RESCO grant and other energy-related initiatives,
will establish the university as a living laboratory to explore
replicable, sustainable energy solutions.
Clark Manus, FAIA, chief executive officer of architectural firm
Heller Manus in San Francisco, said the university is leading by
example with its commitment to sustainability and energy-efficient practices.
“It couldn’t be a better example to the students,” said Manus, a
national vice president of the American Institute of Architects.
“It demonstrates what can be achieved with a collaborative,
For information about US Green Building Council
LEED awards for UC Merced buildings:
To learn more about UC Merced’s Environmental Stewardship
To view UC Merced’s Climate Action Plan, go to:
University of California Office of the President
American College and University Climate CommitmentWeb sites.
UC Merced’s Long Range Development Plan describes the four
phases of campus development and establishes ambitious new
objectives for sustainability and environmental stewardship. The
document can be found at
Donna Birch Trahan