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OCTOber 24, 2005

By Chancellor James Moeser The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for The Chapel Hill Herald


Hundreds of students, staff, faculty, and administrators are expected to gather at Rams Head Plaza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 26) to celebrate the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Campus Sustainability Day.

Opened in March, Rams Head Plaza is the site of the first "green" or vegetated roof on campus. Formerly a surface parking lot in a bowl south of Kenan Memorial Stadium, this space now hosts a three-level parking garage, topped with a grassy plaza planted with trees. A dining hall and recreation center are on the plaza level, and the nation’s second largest campus grocery store is at street level.

Some 8,000 residential students live within a half-mile walk of the facility. In moving from the surface lot to the grass-covered deck, the total number of parking spaces on the site increased from 398 to 707.

"Sustainable policies, practices and curricula represent smart business," said Nancy Suttenfield, vice chancellor for finance and administration at UNC. "We want to educate our students for current and future challenges and demonstrate good stewardship in our daily operations and planning."

Suttenfield will receive the 2005 Campus Sustainability Report at the event, and she and Roger Perry, a member of UNC’s Board of Trustees, will present awards to people and programs that have contributed significantly to UNC’s sustainability efforts.

The 2001 campus master plan has been essential in directing campus growth. The plan, which guides the site selection and design of new buildings, and its implementation were recognized this year with an Excellence in Planning and Architecture Merit Award from the Society for College and University Planning and the American Institute of Architects. The award jury said it was impressed by "how much has been accomplished on this project. The setting is very complex and the proposals rise to the occasion."

Other activities planned for the ceremony are exhibits, information booths and free local and organic food.

The report references many campuswide accomplishments in sustainability.

For example, at the request of students, a sustainability minor has been developed and is working its way through the approval process. Courses would include environmental science, public policy, business and planning.

At Kenan-Flagler Business School, master of business administration students learn environmental and social impact management by selecting the concentration in sustainable enterprise. The core "sustainable strategy" class is now offered in the executive MBA program and will soon be available to undergraduate business students. Graduate students in planning and public health are among the first nationwide to study how community design can encourage physical activity.

Among other sustainability-oriented developments at UNC and mentioned in the 2005 report, new construction projects are applying Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The School of Nursing’s Carrington Hall addition, site of another vegetated roof, is the first campus project to register for LEED certification in the 16-campus University of North Carolina system. UNC’s N.C. Botanical Garden is striving for a LEED platinum rating – the highest level available – for its planned Visitor Education Center.

Recycling rates at UNC have reached 41 percent, the report said. By keeping bottles, cans and paper products out of the landfill, the university avoids $210,000 in transportation costs and landfill tipping fees annually, said Cynthia Pollock Shea, director of UNC’s Sustainability Office. Recycling lead and non-PCB lighting ballasts avoids another $88,000 in disposal fees, she added.

On construction projects, the 2005 report said, contractors submit recycling figures with their invoices. At least 50 percent of construction and demolition debris is recycled on every project.

UNC students have twice voted to raise student fees $4 per semester – in February 2003 and February 2005, the second time for a period of four years – to invest in renewable energy infrastructure. During a six-year period which began in 2004, the students will invest $1.1 million in renewable energy technologies. The first project funded will provide solar-heated water to students in the renovated Morrison Residence Hall. The fee also introduced biodiesel fuel into the Point-2-Point bus fleet that serves students at night.

The report mentions fare-free transit, begun in 2002 and funded by the university, and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Since 2002, bus ridership has increased 61 percent, and an estimated more than 5 million rides are provided annually.

Additionally, an estimated 3,500 members of the university community participate in the free Commuter Alternatives Program, which provides emergency rides home and discounts from local merchants. At least 700 on-campus parking spaces have been released as a result, saving commuters $300,000 annually in parking costs alone.

"Achieving the triple bottom line of environmental quality, economic vitality and social justice is a process of continuous improvement that applies to all organizations," said Shea. "At UNC-Chapel Hill, this challenged is embraced by both the academic and operational sides of campus. Students, staff, faculty and administrators are applying their intelligence, creativity and good will to make Carolina a sustainability leader."

The report is on-line at:


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