Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone College center honors sacred ground

Structures Award: Green Project of the Year - Public: Ohlone College's Newark Center for Health Sciences and Technology

By Cathy Bussewitz.

Friday, October 24, 2008—Business Times.

Blue is green: Recyled denim went into the insulation at the 135,000-square-foot Ohlone College center. —Photo by Dino Yournas.

Environmental biology students at Ohlone College will learn in a facility that sets the standard for their field. The community college’s Newark Center for Health Sciences and Technology is the first in the country to attain the highest certification level possible from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The two-story building, which encompasses 135,000 square feet and sits on an 81-acre site, earned the Platinum level certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (L.E.E.D.).

The facility features insulation made from recycled denim, 26 geothermal ground coils that help heat and cool the building, giant wheels that capture outdoor air to help change the temperature in the building and 1,585 solar panels that generate about 50 percent of the building’s energy.

The college plans to create a living laboratory by doing wetland restoration on campus, and there is an educational display that explains the building’s green features to students and the public.

“When we decided we had this opportunity to build a new campus, we wanted to do something that met the needs of students for the 21st century, as well as took care of the environment and what we call the sacred grounds below us,” said Lets Stagnaro, vice president at Ohlone college. “The Ohlone College is named after the [American] Indians. In honoring the Indians and their tradition of honoring the ground and resources, we decided we want to take part in that philosophy.”

To date, the project has cost $108 million. The majority of the funds came from a local bond that passed in 2001. The college also raised $5 million in private contributions to help equip the building.

The building’s energy-saving features include 26 miles of geothermal ground coils, which utilize the earth’s temperate core to cool water underground, circulate the water into the building to cool the air inside. The coils then circulate the water back to the ground to the cooled again. The geothermal coils occupy about 10 acres under the parking lot.

From the ground up: With the help of a $200,000 federal grant, crews cleaned up pesticide soil contamination on the site of Ohlone College's Newark Center for Health Sciences and Technology. —Photo by Dino Yournas.

“If you can envision a Slinky toy, if you lay it in the ground in a horizontal fashion and stretch it out, that’s what they look like,” said Bill Jangraw, project executive for Turner Construction Co.

Turner has built about 200 LEED-certified buildings around the country, and Ohlone was the seventh Turner project that received LEED Platinum certification.

“That is the future of our business. Clearly, the way the entire construction industry is moving is toward more sustainable materials,” Jangraw said. “Commercial buildings have also been pushing for sustainable building practices, because it’s what the public wants. Several years ago, we identified that, and we decided we wanted to be leaders in the green building business, and so we certified a number of our employees.”

The site was formerly agricultural land, and was contaminated by the pesticide toxaphene. The EPA gave a $200,000 grant to Ohlone College to clean up toxic soil as part of the Brownfields Program, which encourages redevelopment of the country’s estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated toxic waste sites.

The contaminated soil was moved from the construction site to another part of the site, and the college plans to treat the soil biologically, rather than have it hauled to a toxic waste dump.

“It’s very rewarding for the college, not only for faculty and staff and students, but the entire community, to be able to complete the project the way that we did,” said Stagnaro. “It was something we felt was important to do. And when people say they can’t build a campus on a (LEED) Platinum level, we can say we did it. So it can be done.”

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