Sac State focuses on ?green? campus with energy savings

Brett Johnson

Sacramento State has been continuing with green practices around campus, and is hoping to receive recognition for its energy conservation efforts in the Well.

Sustainability was fundamental to the design of the campus’ 150,000 square-foot recreation center. The Well was constructed with environmentally friendly heating and ventilation systems, energy-efficient lighting and boilers that are meant to reduce pollution.

For the construction of the Well, Sac State is seeking recognition from organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council, which acknowledge colleges that design and operate buildings in ways that conserve resources and reduce impact on climate change.

The California State University system set a goal to reduce energy consumption by 15 percent by the end of fiscal year 2009-10, which led to stricter energy usage compliance requirements. Nat Martin, Sac State’s energy conservation coordinator, claims the Well surpasses CSU standards by more than 20 percent.

“We’ve had mandates to control energy use since the early “70s,” Martin said. “We try to do things like install lighting that gives the same amount of light with less wattage in an attempt to remain as energy efficient as possible.”

The campus’ American River Courtyard residence hall received recognition from multiple organizations for its focus of sustainability. The engineering that went into the courtyard led to it being named Best Public Project in 2010 by the Sacramento Business Journal. The courtyard’s energy efficient practices also attained recognition and a large rebate from SMUD.

U.S. Green Building Council awards Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification to buildings that are constructed using energy conservation concepts. Last year, the courtyard earned the schoolits first gold certification for implementing eco-friendly refrigerants and highly efficient lighting and ventilation.

“The second Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified building on campus will be the Well,” Martin said. “We are currently waiting to see if we get a silver or gold rating.”

For a building to attain certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, it must fulfill categories such as energy and water efficiency, innovation in design and sustainability. There are seven categories and up to 100 attainable credits, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

“In order for building to be certified you have to receive a certain amount of credits,” said Joel Padilla, a customer service representative for the U.S. Green Building Council. “The more credits you earn, the higher the certification level. It can range from silver to gold to platinum.”

Another award the American River Courtyard received was the Best Practice Award for Overall Sustainable Design, which is presented at the annual California Higher Education Sustainability Conference.

For another opportunity to bring attention to the green features of the Well, Sac State submitted an application for an award at this year’s conference at CSU Long Beach. The conference will be held in July, which is when the awards will be given out.

“The conference is a chance for higher education entities to share ideas and collaborate on sustainability,” said Wesley Morgan, the CSU system’s energy program manager. “It’s also an opportunity to honor the energy conservation efforts of schools.”

Awareness of ecology is rewarded through multiple categories. Some of the awards include Best Practice in Lighting Design, Best Practice in Heating and Ventilation Design and the prestigious Overall Sustainable Design award.

Aside from work at the Well, there has been an ongoing campus-wide push for more efficient energy consumption. The university recently completed the installation of cleaner florescent lighting in Solano Hall, and improved the heating and ventilation systems in Capistrano Hall.

Martin said students probably would not visually notice most of the changes shifting the campus toward being more eco-friendly, but a greener Sac State will certainly have a positive effect on the future.

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]