Ryan Chartrand

Cal Poly campus buildings are expected to become more eco-friendly, thanks to efforts by students and staff.

Both groups are working together to ensure new construction projects and existing buildings are deemed sustainable by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Sustainability is a non-partisan issue. It affects everyone,” said Chad Worth, an industrial engineering senior and president of the Empower Poly Coalition, an organization advocating sustainability issues on campus. “We’re trying to be the agents of change.”

For existing buildings, staff members are looking into ways to conserve energy and improve operation efficiency. The Faculty Offices East building is the first to undergo these changes, requiring everything from light bulbs to water fixtures be scrutinized and retrofitted in order to conserve resources and become more sustainable.

“We’re using Faculty Offices East as a pilot building,” said Cheryl Mollan, project manager for Facilities Services, who has devoted over a year’s work toward the cause.

“We plan to certify other buildings as well. It’s a great way to promote sustainability and it shows Cal Poly’s interest in using natural resources and thinking environmentally.”

New projects like Poly Canyon Village are being built with greener components such as low-flow plumbing fixtures, low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, energy-efficient air-conditioning systems, and materials with longer lifecycles that require fewer replacements.

“LEED certification is important because it offers proof that the project is sustainable,” said Joel Neel, senior associate director with Facilities Services.

Thinking environmentally also increases costs, but staff members expect to recoup their losses in a very short time. The benefits of obtaining LEED certification include lower operating costs, increased property value, reduction of waste and emissions, and tax rebates and other incentives, as well as an increase in overall occupant well-being and productivity.

Earlier this month, the Recreation Center expansion referendum passed with an overwhelming 88.7 percent vote to make the project LEED certified, ensuring that the new facility will meet the highest standards of performance and sustainability.

“A LEED building is like a car engine that has been tuned to run efficiently,” Worth said. “It may be more expensive than an old beater, but in the long run it’s better than a car that may not be performing to its potential.”

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