Lauren Rabaino

Yes, I know. We already cast our ballots on Feb. 5, but peel off that “I voted” sticker and make room for two more big votes.

The campus will vote on Feb. 27 and 28 whether or not to approve the Rec Center Expansion.

That’s not all. The Green Campus interns collaborated with ASI to include an opinion poll where voters decide whether they want the Rec Center expansion to be LEED-certified. They also put together a video explaining why you should vote YES for LEED certification of the Rec Center, complete with interviews from professors, facilities employees, professionals and ASI President Brandon Souza. Find the video on YouTube.com by searching “LEED the Way.”

What is LEED?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a program of the United States Green Building Council, and, according to its Web site, is “a nationally recognized certification system to promote integrated, whole-building design practices in the building industry.”

The LEED rating system and certification is integral to the recent green movement within the building industry. The framework that the LEED rating system offers helps support green building design and implementation. The program awards silver, gold and platinum plaques to buildings that implement sustainable features and earn a certain number of points. Think of it as a “green building Olympics” meets your English professor’s grading rubric.

Although it varies depending on the type of building, the rating system typically includes six categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation and Design Process. It lists strategies in each category and allots points accordingly.

Although the emphasis is on reducing a building’s carbon emissions, other measures include providing views, implementing water conservation and reduction strategies to the building and exterior landscaping, and ensuring indoor air quality by prohibiting the use of chemicals (typically VOCs and formaldehyde) for indoor products, such as paints, furniture and carpets. That’s pretty important while you’re huffing and puffing on the treadmill.

So, that’s LEED in a nutshell, and for those of you who are more familiar with LEED, I have to add that as an architecture student, I understand that it is not the end-all, be-all of green building. Good design requires a holistic approach and flexibility according to specific site, client and climate requirements.

However, green building is not mainstream enough yet to not need rating systems and third-party certification within the industry, especially for large-scale, institutional projects such as this one.

Back to campus matters

For those of you who decide to vote in favor of the Rec Center expansion, let ASI know that LEED-certification should be required by voting YES in the opinion poll.

During the Tech Solutions 2: Architecture panel at the Focus the Nation event that rocked campus a few weeks ago, we all learned that buildings account for 36 percent of our country’s total carbon emissions. So, reducing our buildings’ energy consumption is a necessary component to our fight against climate change. Another important fact: requiring LEED certification will NOT raise the proposed $65 student fee increase, which would become effective in 2011.

While we’re talking about money matters, it is necessary to point out that case studies of LEED-certified buildings show long-term cost benefits, which will be beneficial for future ASI needs.

Focus the Nation got us talking about sustainability and solutions; now it’s time to start taking action. With LEED-certification, the Rec Center expansion could be more than just a larger building that fits more exercise machines and doubles the square footage.

Just as we are reminded everyday of the global problems our generation faces, a LEED-certified building front and center on the main drag would give us all the opportunity to walk past a solution every day. Besides providing the tangible benefit for reducing our campus energy use, bringing us closer to the CSU-wide goal of 15 percent reduction of 2003-04 carbon emission levels by 2009-10, it can also serve as an symbol – for ourselves, the greater community, our future employers, and other universities – of our commitment to making tangible changes towards achieving overall sustainability on campus.

Do you want to be a student at a university that leads the way? Do you want to be a student at a university that focuses the nation’s attention on climate change solutions? Do you want to be a student at a university that smells like cow pies? Ooh, tricky.

OK, serious again. Can you think of a reason why we shouldn’t vote for a LEED-certified Rec Center expansion project? Neither can I. Vote YES Feb. 27 and 28.

Lucia Castello is an architecture senior, a regional coordinator for Empower Poly Coalition and columnist for the Mustang Daily.

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