Letter to the Editor – Building Green at ‘Gate

I am writing regarding an article in last week’s Maroon-News, in which environmentalist Tim Flannery was quoted as being “shocked to learn that the new Ho Science Center is not an accredited ‘green’ building.” Flannery’s talk was excellent overall and that particular comment is significant and worthy of response. Consistent with the current policy of the Colgate administration, the Ho Science Center, in fact, was built to comply with green standards as defined by the industry-standard Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Official certification, though, generally adds two to three percent to construction cost or, in the case of Ho, nearly $1.3 million, to the total project cost. While we endeavor to construct and renovate our facilities to LEED standards we have chosen not to pay the costs that would accompany their certification. While there is little disagreement over the wisdom of constructing buildings to LEED standards — not only is the environmental impact reduced, but also the operating costs of such buildings are lower thus helping to offset the extra construction costs over time — the value of certification itself is a matter of discussion. No doubt certification is a source of pride and does make a public statement, but in itself it does not increase the sustainability of the building or reduce its energy usage. We opted to invest those additional funds in classroom facilities, laboratory equipment, and support for research and collaboration. We adhered to green building standards, but prioritized the student and faculty experience in the building over the official stamp of approval. This discussion comes at an important time for Colgate in terms of our commitment to sustainability. Over the past several years, we have launched many green initiatives on campus, but the time has come for us to approach this important topic comprehensively, as a community. That is the goal of the Environmental Initiative, a group of students, faculty, and staff that is working on developing a university-wide structure for monitoring programs, generating new ideas, and setting a course for our efforts as a university community. The Maroon-News’ Gavin Leighton put it well in writing, “As we move forward as students, a school, and a community, it is vital for us to consider our voice and action so that we may be able to move toward a sustainable future. It is important to do this since we will be sharing a common environment in the years to come.”