The Poly Canyon project received LEED’s gold certification for building “green.”
The certification means that the complex was built with the strict standards of sustainability and energy efficiency in mind. Joel Neel, project manager, said it’s a process that started with the design team and was followed by the building contractor.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a program run by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The council is a non-profit organization that works with designers and builders to lower the impact of development.
“We’re excited because Poly Canyon makes 25 percent of our buildings sustainable,” Neel said.
He added it makes Cal Poly the highest in the CSU system.
Mike Montoya, a construction management professor, said it was a challenge because of the massive size of the project. But the benefits far outweigh any perceived inconveniences.
LEED is built on a point system that weighs not only what materials are used, but the impact of getting those materials to the site. In addition LEED coordinators consider the air quality during and after construction, as well as the health benefits to those living in the buildings. Montoya said residents in these buildings will get sick far less, score better on tests and have reduced risks of asthma and cardiovascular issues.
Points are assigned based not only on the building projects but the community as a whole said Dao Doan, senior principle at the local USBGC office. Doan said if the community caters to biking, walking and cutting down on individual vehicle trips points are added to the certification.
“We want to encourage developing communities to go green,” Doan said.
He said the certification is based on 100 total available points for each site. Poly Canyon received 42 points, which landed the complex in the gold scale rating.
Montoya said buildings that meet LEED certification provide many benefits to the community. They use less energy, are made from recycled materials and people who live in these buildings tend to have less health problems than those who live in older buildings that do not meet the qualifications.
The certification is not handed over without serious consideration and review, which is why it took time from the completion of the project before it was received. Montoya said everything has to be documented, not only on paper but with photographs before it is submitted to the USBGC for review.
Montoya said the certification keeps builders from claiming they have built something green when they haven’t.
“It cuts down on green-washing, keeps people honest,” Montoya said.
During the building of Poly Canyon 90 percent of the waste was diverted from the landfill through various recycling programs. Neel said the buildings in Poly Canyon are 42 percent more efficient than national standards in part because of the natural ventilation system. There are no air conditioners in Poly Canyon. And water flow has been reduced by 32 percent compared to older buildings on campus.
Neel said Cal Poly will continue to strive for certification of new buildings which qualify for the program. He said Faculty Offices East is LEED certified and the new Recreation Center will be when it’s built. Montoya thinks every building on campus should be certified.
“It’s a no-brainer and it doesn’t cost any more,” Montoya said of building to LEED specifications and the benefits that come with it.