The University of California, Merced, received yet another bit of praise for its commitment to campus-wide sustainability this month, when its Long Range Development Plan  (LRDP) was named the Outstanding Planning Document of 2009 by the Association of Environmental Professionals  (AEP).
AEP, a statewide organization focusing on environmental science, regulation and policy, presented the award to UC Merced at its annual conference in Palm Springs on March 16.
"From day one, UC Merced has been committed to becoming a leader in sustainability both in its curriculum and in its own physical development and operations ," said Thomas Lollini, FAIA, associate vice chancellor for physical planning, design and construction. "This award serves as further proof of what can be achieved when campus leaders make that kind of across-the-board commitment to excellence."
The news came on the heels of a California Institute for Energy and Environment  (CIEE) report that shows UC Merced meeting or exceeding aggressive benchmarks for sustainable construction in its Classroom and Office Building (COB) and Science and Engineering Building (S&E).
Also, in January, the National Renewable Energy Lab listed UC Merced as a leading example of effective land use planning with respect to energy conservation and employment of renewable energy in long range and climate action planning.
The LRDP is a guide for future land use patterns and the development of facilities, residence halls, roads, bicycle paths, open space and infrastructure on the UC Merced campus. The plan features a high-density, pedestrian-friendly layout covering 815 acres and serving 25,000 students at its final build-out in 30 years.
"The plan boldly incorporates sustainable planning and design concepts to integrate land use, circulation and open space systems," the AEP jury stated in its comments. "Sustainable planning is clearly demonstrated throughout the plan."
UC Merced's LRDP, adopted by the UC Board of Regents in March 2009, outlines some ambitious sustainability  goals. Chief among them are the requirement that all new buildings be LEED Gold  certified or better and the "Triple Zero Commitment" to produce as much energy as is used, eliminate landfill waste and produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions, all by 2020.
It was the second major award for UC Merced's LRDP. Last fall, the university received California's most prestigious environmental honor — the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award .
"We are excited UC Merced is achieving recognition for its long-range plan to build a sustainable campus," Principal Planner Richard Cummings said. "From site planning to the design of buildings, the LRDP provides a compelling framework to guide development in the coming decades."
UC Merced tackled the pressing issue of global climate change head-on in its construction, setting a goal to use just 50 percent of the energy used in buildings on other UC campuses. The benchmarks were staggered, with a goal of operating at or below 80 percent for the first 600,000 total square feet of buildings — which includes COB and S&E — and incrementally lower targets leading up to the 50 percent mark.
The CIEE — a University of California partnership of energy agencies, utilities, building industry, nonprofits and research entities — studied COB and S&E from July 2007 to June 2008 and found impressive results. Both buildings were operating below the 80 percent benchmark in nearly every area of energy use and were even approaching or exceeding the 50 percent goal in some areas.
"The better-than-targeted performance of the first UC Merced buildings, along with areas identified for further improvement, will make it easier for the campus to meet its zero net energy goal for 2020," said John Elliott, the university's assistant director of energy and sustainability. "These case studies validate UC Merced's leading-edge approach to deep efficiency building design."