The University of California, Merced, recently earned what might be the most prestigious of a growing list of awards for its Long Range Development Plan, while the campus had its seventh building certified “Gold” by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
UC Merced's commitment to sustainability can be seen throughout the campus, which now has eight buildings LEED certified silver or better, and in its ambitious goal to achieve zero net energy use, contribute zero waste to landfills and produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 — known as the Triple Zero Commitment.
"At UC Merced, we're attempting to set new standards for energy efficiency and environmental stewardship in our building design and construction," said Thomas Lollini, FAIA, campus architect and associate vice chancellor for Physical Planning, Design and Construction. "These latest achievements show that we are on our way toward not just meeting those standards, but exceeding them."
UC Merced's grand plan for campus design and construction — the 2009 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) — continues to be lauded  by industry organizations. The latest recognition is the LRDP's inclusion in the Top Ten Green Projects  list compiled each year by the American Institute of Architects' Committee on the Environment. The award, given to the leading examples of sustainable architecture and green design solutions, will be formally announced at a convention in May in Washington, D.C.
The plan, which has been honored several times for its commitment to sustainability, earned high praise from the AIA judges  for its ambitious goals, the many successes already achieved toward those goals, and UC Merced staff's diligent monitoring of the campus’ performance in areas of sustainability.
"This is a profound example of taking the long view of the built environment, setting out an early plan, identifying benchmarks, designing and building a campus, seeing if you are meeting your benchmarks, and continuous improvement until hopefully you reach the goals of zero energy and zero waste for 10,000 students in 2020," wrote one juror. "It's an astonishing ambition, and they are on track."
According to principal planner Richard Cummings, UC Merced's Physical Planning, Design and Construction team was assisted in developing the 2009 plan by a consultant team that included Bruce Race, FAIA, FAICP, RACESTUDIO; Cliff Lowe Associates; A. Plescia & Co.; Shabnam Barati, Impact Sciences; Paul Heath, Business Place Strategies; STANTEC; Fehr & Peers; and Douglas Jamieson.
The campus' Logistical Support/Safety Facility  (LSSF) is the latest UC Merced building to achieve LEED Gold certification. The facility, which encompasses two metal buildings joined by a loading dock, houses the departments of material management, mail services; environmental health and safety; facility management; and transportation services.
All of those factors contributed to the high LEED ranking. The facility was also the first UC Merced construction project to achieve several new LEED credits: a renewable energy credit, thanks to the campus’ 1-megawatt solar array constructed in 2009; an alternative fuels credit, for offering a 20 percent discount on parking permits for drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles; and an "Innovation and Design" credit, which the LSSF earned for its Green Cleaning Plan.
"Achieving LEED Gold on a metal building here on campus goes to show our high commitment to sustainability," said Mark Maxwell, UC Merced's assistant director of construction and sustainability.
UC Merced's standards for sustainability are only increasing, Maxwell said. Four completed projects are all expected to achieve LEED Gold certification or better: the Dining Expansion (platinum), the Early Childhood Education Center (gold), Housing 3 (platinum) and the Social Science and Management Building (platinum). And the campus is pursuing LEED Platinum for each of its four newest construction projects : Housing 4; the Student Activity and Athletic Center; Science and Engineering Building 2; and the Student Services Building.