Article - Office of College Advancement

New Ohlone campus may have others turning green with envy

By David Goll.

Friday, July 6, 2007—Reprinted from East Bay Business Times.

Photos by Stephanie Secrest. Under the leadership of President Doug Treadway, the new Ohlone College campus will be the first in the nation to achieve LEED Gold certification. Thanks to the solar panels that cover its entire roof, the college is expected to operate at an energy surplus during certain months. Construction at the college. Construction includes installing tubing for geothermal heating and cooling.

The world's first green college campus will not be constructed on a Mendocino County bluff overlooking crashing Pacific waves, astride a gaping canyon in Arizona or at the base of a snowcapped mountain in Colorado.

Rather, it is right here in the populous East Bay, rising just west of busy Interstate 880 in the bay lands of Newark.

Ohlone College, which has operated a 534-acre hillside campus in the Mission San Jose district of Fremont for the past 35 years that today has 18,000 students, has gone green with its second campus, located between NewPark Mall and the south end of San Francisco Bay.

Scheduled to open in January, the 80-acre Ohlone College Newark Center for Health Sciences and Technology will be the first campus ever to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold rating, given by the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council.

The LEED program promotes green building approaches in five areas: sustainable site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

"We expect our campus to be a Bay Area showcase for sustainable building practices," said Doug Treadway, Ohlone College president. "We worked with our architects to make sure we reached LEED Gold rating, but we have been told recently we may be able to reach platinum. There are a lot of universities that have individual buildings that are LEED Gold or LEED Platinum, but we're incredibly lucky to be able to build a new campus from the ground up during a time when this has become a very important issue."

The new campus wasn't planned that way when voters in what was then called the Fremont-Newark Community College District - and now the Ohlone Community College District - approved a $150 million bond measure in March 2002. That bond measure included funds to build the district's second campus in Newark.

Between then and the time ground was broken for the campus in May 2005, the decision was made to follow a green path in its construction.

Treadway, long interested in environmental issues, was a major force in the decision. He arrived at Ohlone in July 2003 after nine years as president of Shasta College in Redding, where he helped promote a strong environmental curriculum.

"It was my good fortune that plans for the campus had not been drawn up quite yet, so I had a lot of input," Treadway said. "The architects were open to the concept and (green building issues) have been a personal interest of mine for years. Timing is everything in life, and this was just the luck of the draw."

He is quick to add he has had enthusiastic support from other college administrators and faculty for his plans to create the cutting-edge campus. Leta Stagnaro, Ohlone's associate vice president, will oversee the Newark college when it opens.

"Dr. Treadway's visionary leadership brought a new consciousness to the project and inspired the college community to look beyond the traditional way of designing a college campus," Stagnaro said. "His awareness of the importance of practicing environmental stewardship provided the framework for the redesign of the building and in designing the culture and learning environment that will be a part of the students' learning experience. His leadership has been instrumental in the development and planning for this new campus."

That campus, covering 37 acres of the 80-acre site near the corner of Mowry Avenue and Cherry Street will consist of a single, sprawling two-story structure that can house up to 3,000 students and will use state-of-the-art sustainable building practices in all aspects of its operation.

The process started before construction began, since the site sits on former farmland where pesticide use was extensive. Treadway said the soil was dug up, set aside, and then treated with pesticide-eating bugs to cleanse it before being reused.

Ohlone's environmentalist president said renewable energy sources will provide the campus with off-the-grid power during a large part of the year: Photovoltaic solar panels will cover the college's flat roof. Tubing, which is filled with water and runs underneath the building, will allow for geothermal heating and cooling, with the water pumped into the "skin" of the building to heat it up and cool it off.

Treadway said that when the campus is operating at an energy surplus, excess power will be put back into the electrical grid. While solar power will be most plentiful May through September, during the typically cloudier months from late fall through early spring, the campus will return to the grid for power. Treadway said, however, it will only use green, or renewable energy sources.

Along with energy conservation, saving water will also be a major priority. And not a moment too soon, with the Bay Area and much of California facing the prospect of serious drought.

"Our campus will be the largest site in the Bay Area to use native and drought-tolerant plants," Treadway said.

And on those fortunate days from October through April when the area gets much-needed rainfall, the runoff will be stored in surface ponds with reeds - a man-made feature that will mimic the natural topography of the area before development-induced landfill destroyed much of the wetlands of nearby south San Francisco Bay.

"We will strive to be completely self-sufficient on water," Treadway said.

In fact, he added, school officials plan to restore a wetlands area on the west side of the campus, near the bay.

Inside the buildings, where classes in technology, and health, biomedical and environmental sciences will take place, the green theme continues. Lighting in classrooms and offices will require minimal energy and laptop computers will be used exclusively. Plasma screens placed throughout the building and updated regularly will display various measurements of campus energy savings, and then translate those figures into the carbon dioxide equivalent of cars taken off the road or how much solid waste has been kept out of landfills.

Just as the physical plant itself will be cutting edge, so will the curriculum and instruction. Students will have schedules similar to a workplace, with classes clustered in a block of time rather than an hour here and there. Instruction will be based on an interdisciplinary model around specific themes, not isolated subject matter, and students will work with fellow students as part of a team.

Even before his model Newark campus is open, Treadway has already started taking his academic environmental crusade across the country. He just returned from Washington, D.C., where he met with a group of about 60 college presidents that have formed a coalition to promote an agreement encouraging colleges and universities nationwide to reduce their carbon dioxide output by 15 percent in order to slow global warming.

"There are about 4,000 colleges and universities around the country, and we contribute 3 percent to 5 percent of the nation's carbon output," Treadway said. "If we join together, we can make a difference. We have more than 300 colleges signed up so far, and we hope to have 1,000 by January."

In California, Treadway said, all 10 campuses of the University of California have agreed to participate, as have about a half-dozen of the 23 California State University campuses.

dgoll@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1436

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