Construction, Higher Education, and Sustainability

Building council names university best green school in US

December 25, 2014
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$60M university hall earns LEED Gold
Sangren Hall at WMU, a LEED Gold-certified building, is home to the College of Education and Human Development and the Department of Sociology. Courtesy WMU

A university in the region is the best green builder of its kind in the nation and an “ideal example” to other schools.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools named its annual Best of Green Schools honorees last week and designated Western Michigan University as the lone honoree in the higher education category for the school’s accomplishments for more than 20 years.

The annual designation recognizes “national leaders and innovators” making an impact to create healthier and more-efficient schools.

WMU will have access to the nonprofit's Green Classroom Professional Certificate program, which will allow educators and school staff to identify supporting or impeding factors to healthy, resource efficient and environmentally sustainable learning spaces, according to WMU.

“Ideal example”

The U.S. Green Building Council highlighted WMU’s service as a sustainable leader through its energy-conservation efforts, recycling and waste-reduction programs and its support of green manufacturing practice research.

Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools, said selecting the Best of Green Schools is a challenging process, since there are a number of fantastic examples of sustainable initiatives occurring in both small and large communities.

“Every one of the honorees is a leader, taking risks, setting an example for others, innovating and diligently pursuing a world in which every student attends a green school within the next generation,” Gutter said. “The WMU community lives out sustainable values in a unique and powerful way. They are an ideal example of how colleges and universities can set national standards for excellence.”

LEED campus

John Dunn, president at WMU, said the designation from the U.S. Green Building Council is recognition of the university’s commitment to sustainability, and the school is deeply appreciative of honor.

“We build sustainable learning environments and encourage members of our community to view the broader context of protecting resources and using them in a way that means they’ll remain available to benefit a new generation,” Dunn said. “Our students are advocates and change agents who will have an impact for decades to come.”

WMU has been investing in energy-saving initiatives since developing its quasi-green revolving fund in 1980 and in 2010 approved a fee supporting campus projects and funding for student research.

The Kalamazoo-based university had a total of 12 LEED-certified buildings as of Nov. 24 and has an additional eight facilities undergoing the LEED-approval process with the U.S. Green Building Council.

WMU also offers an Environmental and Sustainability Studies program, which was established in 1972 and focuses on the long-term health of the planet and its inhabitants.

2014 Best of Green Schools honorees

K-12 school: The Monarch School, Texas

Higher education institution: WMU

Ambassador: Mark Swiger, West Virginia

Policymaker: Representative Brenda Gilmore, Tennessee

Student leadership: Dunloggin Middle School Oyster Gardeners, Maryland

Business leadership: Bristol-Myers Squibb, New York

Collaboration: University at Buffalo, the State University of New York

Transformation: Green Bronx Machine in New York

Community event: Learning Gate Community School, Florida

Moment for the movement: Annie Donnelly, Florida

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