The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Commentary April 21, 2006

Adopt LEED Certification

Oberlin prides itself on setting high standards for activism, specifically for environmental education. With this in mind, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is right up Oberlin’s alley: created by the US Green Building Council, LEED strives to improve the level of environmental sustainability in newly constructed buildings and renovation projects throughout the country and across industry lines. LEED certification is determined by the following categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design process. Oberlin has already been surpassed by 27 universities and colleges who have implemented LEED regulations on their campuses.

At Wednesday’s General Faculty meeting, student senators proposed a resolution that would call for the General Faculty’s support of incorporating LEED standards before it reaches the Board of Trustees. The specific standards would require the College to achieve a minimum silver rating — the second lowest of four — on all new construction and major renovation projects. Faculty, frustrated by their lack of education on the subject and how it would affect the college financially and their departments specifically, postponed voting on the issue. After an attempt to table the original motion was thwarted, a faculty member called for quorum. The meeting was roughly 30 faculty members shy of the 80 required. This delayed all discussion and any definitive action until next month’s meeting.

Non-supporters of the resolution cited financial strain to the College. While it is slightly more expensive to build and renovate to LEED standards, the long-term savings would overcome any initial burden and help to keep the college out of future financial peril. Had the Science Center been built to these standards, the cost would have been $1.1 million greater upfront; however, over 20 years, savings would have surpassed $11 million. Another concern with the proposal is whether implementations of LEED renovations are realistic for specific facilities, including certain parts of the Conservatory.

The General Faculty will meet again in one month, with the LEED proposal back on their agenda. If the proposal is to have hope of passing and being considered by the Board of Trustees, two things must happen: The faculty must be provided with and seek out the information required to make an educated decision and quorum must be achieved. A select group of student senators have compiled sufficient information, but these students must now effectively distribute this information among the general faculty. The general faculty must understand the importance of this measure in terms of its effects on the environment and on the reputation of Oberlin College, and of attending the next General Faculty meeting — the final one of the academic year

Passing this resolution is only one step toward implementing LEED standards at Oberlin; it is, however, an extremely important resolution, one that officially documents the faculty’s support of this measure before it reaches the Board of Trustees. Oberlin prides itself on its history of progressive firsts. It is the Editorial Board’s hope that the General Faculty will not let Oberlin be the last to take this important step in protecting our environment for future generations.


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