Higher Ed Paving the Way for Future Generations

Educational institutions across the state of Michigan are committed to building and operating healthy, high efficient spaces for students to learn. These institutions are leading future generations down a greener path by setting the example for sustainable progress. Campus wide sustainability departments have been established that include programs and initiatives that reduce waste, natural resources and increase energy efficiency.  This demonstrates to students the importance of  a light carbon footprint and increased social responsibility.

Many West Michigan colleges and universities have adopted LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) for one or more campus construction projects including:   Aquinas College, Central Michigan University (CMU), Davenport University (DU), Ferris State University (FSU), Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), Kalamazoo College (KU), Michigan State University (MSU), Montcalm Community College (MCC), Muskegon Community College (MCC), Northern Michigan University (NMU), Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) and Western Michigan University (WMU).  Some institutions have established LEED as a criterion for new construction and renovation projects campus wide including Aquinas, WMU, MSU and GVSU.

The State of Michigan mandates that state funded buildings be constructed to LEED standards. However, the state does not require that the building achieve LEED certification. “Why build to LEED standards if you do not complete the certification process?” asked James Moyer, associate vice president for facilities planning at GVSU. “Grand Valley chooses to pursue LEED certification as proof of our accomplishment.”

“If a Western Michigan project receives state funds or not, all projects over $1 million will be designed and constructed in accordance with LEED,” said DeVon Miller, building commissioning specialist at Western Michigan University.

It is evident that other educational  institutions agree with GVSU’s & WMU’s philosophies.  Since LEED certification was established in 2000, 13 colleges in West Michigan have registered 95 projects.  Out of the 95 registered projects, 68 have successfully obtained certification including 2 platinum buildings, 20 gold, 27 silver and 19 certified.

Just this year, five higher education buildings in West Michigan achieved LEED certification. Aquinas student housing building, St. Rose of Lima and CMU’s multipurpose stadium achieved basic LEED certification. Muskegon Community College’s Science Center addition and GVSU’s Marketplace and Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science achieved LEED Gold certification.

Building owners and operators that pursue building renovations or new construction must build to construction code, however, they have the choice to build above code. Building above code means taking extra steps to enhance the sustainability, health, and efficiency of the building.

Some buildings claim to be “green”, healthy and high efficient, while others prove it. LEED is a third party rating system that proves green operations with certification. It rewards buildings that reduce their impact across multiple areas, including: building site management, materials used, water and energy consumption, transportation options, occupant health and comfort, and more.

LEED certified buildings work to improve building operations and lower a building’s energy use.

The students of today, are the leaders of tomorrow.  Educating students to understand and value the relationship between the economy and ecology is important. Economicology is a term coined by Peter Wege of the Wege foundation.  The word summarizes Mr. Wege’s philosophy that a prosperous economy depends on maintaining a healthy environment.

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