Article - Office of College Advancement

Cost and Red Tape Hamper Colleges' Efforts to Go Green

They find ways to achieve sustainability without the official stamp

By Scott Carlson.

April 11, 2008 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education [full article].

The private, nonprofit Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program has become synonymous with green construction, and has kick-started a national conversation about energy efficiency, recycled building materials, and healthy work environments. Even people who know very little about green building know about LEED, as it is commonly known, as a kind of shorthand for environmental achievement.

In higher education, where sustainability is a hot issue, LEED certification is often a visible symbol of a college's commitment. Since LEED began in 2000, more than 1,500 college projects have been registered in the LEED program, the bulk of those in the past couple of years.

But some college officials are raising questions about the process of LEED certification. Some say it emphasizes less-important priorities in building. Others believe the certification is costly and a pain. They think they can follow LEED's principles to build green, without having to go through the expense and hassle of certifying.

Mark of Distinction

The LEED brand is indeed powerful, as other projects at Colorado State and Stanford show. Despite administrators' problems with the price of LEED at Colorado State, one academic building now under way will get certification—because the students, who are paying for the building through student fees, demanded it. At Stanford, Boora Architects is working on a business building in another part of the campus, and the attitude about LEED is very different compared with the science-quad project. "They are dead set on a LEED-platinum building," Mr. Campbell says.

The LEED image is not just for the wealthiest institutions. Ohlone College [emphasis added], in California, is seeking a platinum rating on a health-sciences building that just opened. Douglas Treadway, president of the two-year institution, says that a platinum rating would be important for the college's image, which places an emphasis on sustainability.

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