Nov 022009
Authors: Guest Column Brian Dunbar

In a recent column, Seth Anthony questioned CSU’s commitment to “going green” and provided good advice to anyone prone to over-publicizing green efforts. Anthony admitted to feeling jaded by boastful green campus press releases about buildings, carbon emissions and technologies and wisely pointed out that it requires less flashy biodegradable packaging, reducing electricity and water use, sealing windows and creating a “green culture” to become a more sustainable campus and planet.

As a member of the University Sustainability Committee, Construction Management faculty and Institute for the Built Environment director, I concur that we must not overstate green accomplishments and demonstrate that our university is sincerely focused on doing little (and big) things that sustain, preserve and restore our planet.

Anthony uses the LEED green building rating system as an example of our campus spending money for “PR hype.” I want to clarify his miss-statements about LEED.

LEED is much more than PR hype; it is an internationally trusted system of high standards for building owners, designers, engineers and builders to assure significant energy, water and waste savings . Anthony stated that LEED buildings meet “certain” standards. In truth, any new building “meets” standards; LEED buildings must exceed standards for energy, water conservation, healthy air, recycling, erosion, lighting and comfort.

CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment has participated in more than 30 green building projects. Many have attained LEED certification.

Our stance is that a building not measured by a third party might mislead the public about its sustainability. This could be equated to a student reading textbooks, never completing a degree and stating that he essentially earned a diploma.

CSU has two LEED certified buildings — the CSU Transit Center and Guggenheim Hall — with several others in the construction and certification process. CSU students from interior design to technical journalism participated in the projects from design to construction to LEED certification work.

LEED certification costs were less than 1 percent of the project budgets. The Transit Center attained the Gold LEED level, signifying high performance in energy efficiency, lighting, construction waste recycling, water conservation, use of recycled materials and education.

National studies concluded that LEED buildings are 30 percent more energy efficient and conserve 20 percent more water than non-LEED buildings. That kind of natural resource savings directly benefits the environment.

Colorado requires all new and significant remodels with 25 percent or more of its construction funds from the state to achieve LEED Gold certification.

The value of CSU students learning the LEED system by participating in campus projects cannot be overstated: Helping project teams attain certification helps gain unique professional experience.

Though difficult to substantiate, we also believe that CSU has produced a higher number of LEED accredited professionals than any other university. Students who participated in LEED projects are sustainability directors for regionally and nationally recognized companies such as Swinerton Builders, PCL Construction, Perkins & Will Architects, CTG Energetics and The Neenan Company.

I thank Anthony for raising the issue of a genuine green campus commitment. Our commitment must be comprehensive, consistent and genuine to steer clear of unsubstantiated hype and to expose our students to the issues surrounding energy, water, waste, health, community, biodiversity and other ‘green’ topic areas for the benefit of future generations of all species.

Brian Dunbar is the director of the College of Applied Human Science’s Institute for the Built Environment. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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