The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

UNC Asheville LEEDs in sustainability for the spring semester

Bailee Harris

News Writer

[email protected]

Photo By Xander Lord
Second year Mass Communication major Ian O’Brien recycling behind one of the sustainability plaques on campus.

Sustainability efforts on campus are increasing despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to university officials. UNC Asheville’s on-campus apartments, the Woods, earned a LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, and a celebration of this effort will take place at Greenfest this month. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the most widely used green building rating system in the nation.

“When this project started, we were shooting for silver,” said Perry Bartsch, a construction manager for UNCA. “There was a window of opportunity that appeared that if we really kept working at it as a team, we would be able to achieve gold.”

According to Bartsch, achieving a LEED certification can be complex, as there are different levels which can be achieved — silver, gold and platinum. The levels are achieved by completing a certain number of points which correlate to a building’s site, water and energy efficiency, materials, atmosphere, environmental quality, recycling and innovation and design.   

“It can be a long and seemingly cumbersome but ultimately worthwhile process,” Bartsch said. “If we can get there, we should try it and we did. That was completely a team effort.”

According to David Todd, associate vice chancellor for campus operations, having LEED certified buildings is an honor for UNCA’s campus, but sustainability can be achieved without following the strict point system for a LEED certification.

“As we pursue LEED, it is a good thing and it does force you to design buildings that are sustainable and energy efficient, but at the same time, it doesn’t necessarily put you in the place to build the most sustainable or the most energy efficient building,” Todd said.

The associate vice chancellor for campus operations said many buildings on campus are very sustainable and energy efficient and don’t have a LEED certification.

“I like to see us on the forefront, not necessarily following what everybody else is doing. While LEED is one measure, I also want to encourage us as a university to look at things like the Green Globes or the Living Building Challenge or even developing our own standard,” Todd said.

According to Todd, LEED can be very expensive as the U.S. Green Building Council charges a significant fee to apply to the certification and a recurring annual fee, which can cost the same amount as an energy efficient feature which could otherwise be implemented into the construction site.   

“There are highly sustainable buildings on campus that may not have a certification but would have it. In some cases, that is better than what LEED would require,” Bartsch said.

In addition to the Woods achieving LEED Gold, UNCA plans to sign a carbon commitment at Greenfest which will take place March 27 through April 2. Environmental Studies Lecturer Alison Ormsby said the carbon commitment is a big step for sustainability on campus.

“The carbon commitment is an initiative nationwide, involving a whole bunch of campuses and universities for campuses to pledge themselves to go carbon neutral by a certain date —  they pick the date. The exciting thing is the chancellor is scheduled to sign this on behalf of UNC Asheville on March 30 during Greenfest,” Ormsby said.

According to the environmental studies lecturer, pledging to the carbon commitment means the campus will take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its carbon footprint through various activities across campus. A climate action plan will be developed to strategize the actions UNCA will take to achieve carbon neutrality.

COVID-19 has posed an assortment of unique problems to campus events and action plans, but on-campus sustainability has adapted and thrived despite the pandemic, according to Jackie Hamstead, interim co-director of sustainability and environmental specialist.

“It certainly has not stagnated initiatives at the Office of Sustainability, but it has shifted some priorities a bit. We did have to cancel the farm-to-table dinner last year, which is our big event for the Office of Sustainability. We shifted away from some in-person events,” Hamstead said.

UNCA made a feature in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges for the year 2020 according to the interim co-director of sustainability, and the Office of Sustainability is working to submit to the Princeton Review for this year.

“We update every year, so we are working away to address other issues where we might need some improvement, like having bike lanes on every road if possible. There are a few things we could do a little bit more with,” Ormsby said.

The environmental studies lecturer said sustainability is one of UNCA’s core values and there is an infused culture of sustainability throughout campus at all levels.

“The Student Environmental Center is a great example. If you look at the students who work for the SEC, they’re from all majors. This is not unique to one major. We have tons of campus clubs. The McCullough Fellowship is a program I run, it is a summer research opportunity and it is for all majors. It doesn’t have to be environmental studies only,” Ormsby said.

According to Vollie Barnwell, director of housing and student life operations, resident students can participate in sustainability by making everyday choices while living on campus, and the housing office is working to make sustainability efforts easy and more convenient for students.

“Turning off your lights, not having your windows open when your air conditioner is running full force, composting, recycling and all of those types of things I think are ways that every student can be involved. One of the goals we’ve had working with campus operations and others at the university is to make things like recycling, composting and energy saving as easy as possible,” Barnwell said.

The director of housing said UNCA sets an example for the local community and the global community as students from all over the country and world attend UNCA and have the ability to learn sustainable practices while on campus.

“If we can do a good job of showing them, while they are here, sustainable practices they can take wherever they end up and where they go from here,” Barnwell said. “Composting is something that every student can do. Recycling is something that every student can do.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Blue Banner Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *