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NOVEMBER 27, 2005
SUSTAINABILITY - WHERE CAROLINA LEADS THE WATER TABLE TO THE ROOF TOPS
By Chancellor James Moeser The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel Hill Herald

 

In recent years, the university has made considerable progress on the sustainability front. Amid unprecedented construction and growth, the campus remains committed to nurturing the sense of place that Carolina has long enjoyed.

As this process has proceeded, the guiding principles of the campus master plan have helped remind us of the need to protect the natural resources that support us. Stormwater management, tree and site protection, and transportation policies that favor alternatives to the single occupant vehicle have become standard practice. Efficient use of energy, water and materials, reduced life-cycle costs, and a comfortable and healthy environment are goals of every project. In the process of creating 5 million new square feet of building, we are adding 10 acres of green space.

Rams Head Center is an example of the new connective tissue forming on campus. Students in the residence halls of south campus are no longer relegated to a bedroom community. They have easy access to many amenities. Being able to stop in for a workout, a good meal or to pick up a few groceries on the way back from class has improved the quality of life for thousands of Carolina students this year.

Rams Head also hosts the first green – or vegetated – roof on campus. Rainwater is captured on site and used to irrigate new green space, rather than contributing to downstream sediment loading and flooding. Half a dozen porous pavement parking lots, along with infiltration beds and underground cisterns, demonstrate the innovative approach this campus has taken to stormwater management.

The School of Nursing’s Carrington Hall addition has the second green roof on campus and is a milestone in addition. This building is the first in the 16-campus UNC system to apply for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The building features openings allowing lots of natural sunlight in, it is water efficient, and its design incorporates renewable building materials.

The Carrington Hall team was one of many construction teams on campus that worked hard to protect the trees at the site. Logging mats distributed the weight from construction vehicles and building materials so that tree roots were not damaged. And a report from the Chancellor’s Task Force on Landscape Heritage and Plant Diversity now provides better guidance to campus design and construction teams, including landscape protection suggestions and ideas of types of plantings best suited to various campus locations.

Our reclaimed water initiative with OWASA will save an average of 625,000 gallons of potable water each day when installed in 2007 and is projected to save more than 2 million gallons per day by 2050. It also will extend the life of OWASA’s existing potable water resources, thereby saving the entire community the expense of costly capital improvements.

Innovation and creativity will even more strongly guide our development of the Carolina North campus. Sustainability, though, involves more than water and vegetation.

We have spent more than $18 million on energy conservation projects in the past five years, adopting design guidelines that include energy-efficient components, energy modeling for new facilities and building commissioning. We also are installing a solar hot water system in the renovated Morrison residence hall, funded in part by a renewable energy fee that students imposed on themselves.

Transportation is an area where Carolina has made great progress. The fare-free bus systems provided more than 5 million rides last year. Our nationally recognized Commuter Alternatives Program has registered 3,500 members, 700 of whom gave up their on-campus parking spaces.

As we’ve embarked on this quest to expand our campus to add research, teaching and living space, we’ve endeavored to concurrently green up this campus. Among the lessons we have learned is that providing new on-campus parking spaces is incredibly expensive. Zipcars and the bicycle pump installed at the Frank Porter Graham Student Union serve members of the campus and greater community who have opted not to drive single occupant vehicles to campus.

Waste management and recycling is another area where Carolina excels and continues to get better. Forty-one percent of daily discards are now collected for recycling. Keeping these materials out of the landfill avoids more than $200,000 annually in waste transportation and disposal fees. Meanwhile, food waste from assorted eateries on campus is composted. In fact, the Rams Head kitchen was designed so that food waste from the dish lines could be easily pulped, dehydrated to reduce its weight and size and sent off-site for composting. The company that picks up the food waste also picks up the waste grease and runs its equipment on the biodiesel fuel made from the grease.

Carolina recycles 50 percent to 70 percent of the construction and demolition waste generated on campus. And a new program collects and recycles the plastic cups and containers so prevalent at athletics events.   

Earlier this year, the state awarded the university the State Government Sustainability Award. This honor recognized our “green” building strategies that guide construction planning; stormwater management strategies; and the interdisciplinary Carolina Environmental Program, which offers bachelor’s degrees in environmental studies and environmental sciences.

I invite you to examine our sustainability report and learn more about Carolina’s sustainability efforts by visiting http://sustainability.unc.edu.

James Moeser is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He welcomes readers’ messages at jmoeser@unc.edu.





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