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UC Merced Receives State's Top Environmental Leadership Award

October 1, 2009
Campus plan receives 2009 Governor's Award in Comprehensive Land-Use Planning

MERCED, Calif. — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that the University of California, Merced, has won California's highest and most prestigious environmental honor — the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA).

UC Merced was one of 15 recipients honored at a reception Wednesday night (Sept. 30) in Los Angeles during the Governors' Global Climate Summit 2, a conference in which local government leaders from around the world discuss climate change.

"This honor recognizes UC Merced's commitment to developing socially responsible and environmentally friendly practices that promote environmental protection and economic growth," Schwarzenegger said.

UC Merced earned an award in the comprehensive land-use planning category for the campus' 2009 Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP). The 136-page document guides the campus' physical growth, development and land-use priorities.

"We are excited to receive this esteemed recognition," said Thomas Lollini, FAIA, associate vice chancellor for physical planning, design and construction. "This is not only a testament to the value of the work the campus has done here. It is an endorsement of the vision of UC Merced as a leader in sustainability and a model for others to follow."

Campus planners use the LRDP when deciding the locations of future buildings, structures, plazas, parks, roads, infrastructure and natural undeveloped areas. The document also addresses how students, faculty, staff, visitors and vehicles will navigate the campus as it grows to accommodate about 25,000 students in the next 30 years.

All award submissions underwent an extensive screening, review and evaluation process. Recipients were chosen in 10 different categories based on their strengths in eight specific areas, including results, transferability, environmental impact, resource conservation, economic progress, innovation and uniqueness, pollution prevention and environmental justice. UC Merced's submission for its LRDP was deemed "exceptional for its breadth, environmental and economic impact, and value to California's environment and economy."

UC Merced's LRDP, adopted by the UC Regents last March, sets industry-leading policies, including a "Triple Zero Commitment" to produce as much energy as is used from renewable sources, eliminate landfill waste and produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions, all by 2020.

The LRDP outlines UC Merced's founding vision to become an international model for sustainable development and environmental stewardship, said Richard Cummings, UC Merced's principal planner.

Part of that vision has been achieved by constructing energy-efficient buildings. Six of UC Merced's seven buildings have earned Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable building practices under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

GEELA winners will be showcased during the three-day Governors' Global Climate Summit 2 with visual displays. Recipients will be able to converse and interact with high-level international government delegations.

The Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award program was established in 1993. It is administered by the California Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Agency in collaboration with the State and Consumer Services Agency, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.