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Students LEEDing the Way to Green Buildings

A student group pursues high-level environmental certification for SDSU facilities.
The Mission Bay Aquatic Center is already 100-percent powered by solar energy.
The Mission Bay Aquatic Center is already 100-percent powered by solar energy.

SDSU students are leading the way when it comes to making the campus more sustainable and a recently chartered student organization is a prime example. Students with the United States Green Building Council chapter are knee-deep in the first of many projects intended to make the university more environmentally friendly.

Going for the gold

The U.S. Green Buildings Council student chapter is pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Class Certification or higher for the Mission Bay Aquatic Center.

“The water sports instruction facility is an ideal starting point because it produces 100 percent of its electrical needs through solar energy,” said engineering major Loren Slentz.

Certification is based on five categories:

  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Sustainability sites
  • Innovation
  • Water efficiency
  • Materials and resources

After taking inventory of the center’s current conditions, students will present the audit to the national USGBC organization and a three-month performance period will begin.

With the facility jointly owned by UCSD and the Associated Students of SDSU, it is the perfect opportunity for both campus chapters to collaborate and learn together, Slentz said.

Sustainability, to me, is not an alternative. It’s a necessity. We need to change our ways of life and be less wasteful in order to survive.

If approved, the Mission Bay Aquatic Center will be the first LEED-Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance Certified building that is a part of SDSU, and the planned certification of other Associated Students' facilities marks the first LEED certification initiative on campus, said SDSU Sustainability Coordinator Mariah Hudson.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of summer.

Students taking initiative


Chapter vice president Slentz and president Nicholas Posse know that the resources they have grown accustomed to won’t necessarily be there in the future.

“Whether it’s ten or 50 years from now, fossil fuels are going to be depleted,” Slentz said. “Sustainability, to me, is not an alternative. It’s a necessity. We need to change our ways of life and be less wasteful in order to survive.”

The idea for SDSU’s student chapter came to fruition after a culmination of discussions between the local professional chapter, the student chapter at UCSD and the Associated Students’ sustainability council.

“I felt like there wasn’t an outlet for students to discuss sustainable ideas,” Posse said. “This chapter will now serve as a hub for students to share those ideas and to form a collaborative effort.”

Long-term goals

After Mission Bay Aquatic Center certification is complete, the students will work on other Associated Students facilities, with the Aztec Recreational Center serving as the next project. These ventures are part of an initiative to reach carbon neutrality by 2020.

“With an organization like the USGBC, it’s an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience,” Hudson said. “It’s a key part in preparing our students to be leaders, to develop policies and to get the training to implement them.”

Additionally, as an established chapter, classes will be offered for students interested in pursuing LEED Green Associate credentials. The first class is scheduled for November.

General meetings are held regularly in Aztec Mesa. The exact room location is to be determined.

“It’s about educating other students about sustainability through working with your hands and not learning it through textbooks,” Slentz said.

Commitment to sustainability

The Aztec Student Union is also on track to become the California State University’s first LEED Platinum building, the highest possible rating offered by the USGBC. Its features will include:

  • Vegetated roof
  • Solar panels
  • Day lighting
  • Radiant floor system
  • Ground heat exchanger
  • Sunshades
  • Underground storm water tank
  • Re-use of demolished building materials

Created by the national USGBC, the Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The non-profit organization recognizes institutions meeting standards for efficient water and energy uses, and sustainable or recycled materials.


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