Higher Education is Going Green with the USGBC

By: James McManus

September 14, 2012

At universities across the country, sustainability has become a trendy buzzword for students, faculty, and strategic planners. Reducing carbon foot prints and recycling initiatives are helping to mitigate the environmental impact of these institutions as well as help to educate the next generation on the importance of environmental stewardship. The USGBC and the Princeton Review have teamed up to help promote the “greening” of American colleges. In April, the Princeton Review published a new book that ranked the 322 greenest schools in the US.  In addition, the USBGC has created the Center for Green Schools to promote sustainability on campuses and has recognized 7 universities that have expanded their sustainability plans to include green buildings and LEED compliant buildings. From big state schools like UT Austin to small liberal arts like Dickenson College, these universities are proving that any size school can attain sustainable buildings.


So what does this mean for the green building and products industry? With over 4,495 institutions of higher education and many with hopes of expansion, the construction of green buildings in America’s universities is sure to grow. From nationally ranked universities to local community colleges, green building and sustainability has caught the eye of higher education administrators. Hoping to reduce resource consumption, save money in the long run, and create green reputations, many universities have pledged to have minimum LEED compliance for their future buildings. For example Harvard, Brown, MIT, and Princeton have pledged to have all new buildings meet at least LEED silver. The newest member of the UC system, The University of California, Merced, has hopes to be the greenest campus in the country and currently has six LEED Gold structures, and has 4 planned buildings that will also be LEED Gold.  No other university in the United States has earned LEED Silver or better for every building on campus.

Even for schools that do not have LEED pledges, their sustainability departments and student action groups are advocating for green and sustainable products in their classrooms, residence halls, and libraries. Green roofs, low VOC paints, CFL bulbs, and solar power generators are products that most universities are sourcing. The College of Charleston, included in the Princeton Review’s newest green university rankings, has recently installed a green roof and plans to expand this project to other parts of campus. For green product manufacturers, universities could be a profitable laboratory for testing new products and ideas.

For the green-build industry and green product manufacturers, universities are a key market for a couple of reasons. The students, professors, and administrations are innovative and experimental and have put in place plans to reduce the environmental impact of their universities. Also, the universities are teaching students the importance of being responsible consumers and citizens. The combination of idealistic students, trendy college administrations, and ample budgets could lead to the greening of a lot campuses and a more educated alumni!

[Photo courtesy of the USGBC's Center for Green Schools]

This post belongs to categories: Education, LEED

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