UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

In unique course, UNCG Facilities staff LEED by example

For a course in applied sustainability, the entire campus can be a classroom, and the UNCG Facilities staff are the experts.

This past semester, Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture and Sustainability Faculty Fellow Dr. Amanda Gale taught a brand-new class for UNCG – Sustainability in the Built Environment, which enrolled students in both interior architecture and environmental studies programs.

The course focused on content that helps students pass the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate Exam, an internationally recognized green building professional credential.

UNCG has one of the highest percentages of LEED-certified buildings among schools in the UNC system, and many of the Facilities Operations staff who have made that possible took the time this fall to share their hands-on knowledge of sustainable design with Gale’s students.

For several weeks, the staff members served as guest speakers and guides, touring students through campus sites that corresponded to their learning objectives, and sharing their expertise on water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, transportation and indoor environmental quality.

The first trip was through UNCG’s first LEED-certified building, the Education Building, with Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Jorge Quintal and Director of Facilities Design and Construction Ken Pearce. Quintal and Pearce’s presentation not only covered the building itself, but also the planning process, how the project was implemented and what was required for LEED certification.

In the following weeks, the class explored UNCG’s newest addition, Spartan Village II, with Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Enterprises Scott Milman; the campus cisterns and wetlands with Grounds’ Jim Munro; the McIver Chiller Plant, with UNCG’s HVAC supervisor Gary Denny and Utilities Manager Jon Soter, who explained the details of the campus’ water efficiency.

Next, the students toured the Kaplan Center for Wellness with Campus Mechanical Engineer Douglas Cato and energy analyst Nihal Al Raees, who spoke about the center’s energy-conserving operations, including its chillers, boilers and air handlers.

For the last trip, the students toured the Facilities Operation Yard with Waste Reduction & Recycling Operations supervisor Ben Kunka and Director of Purchasing and Contracts Michael Logan. For one additional guest visit, safety training coordinator Todd Beck came to the class to demonstrate how to use safety equipment.

Throughout the course, students learned about sustainable design while gaining a comprehensive understanding of the LEED rating system. For several, the campus tours and special lectures from staff also sparked their interest in facilities and operations careers.

“The systems involved are just fascinating and the cooling towers were incredible,” said senior interior architecture major Cameron John, who cited the chiller plant as his favorite visit.

As the students look toward their LEED-certification exam, Gale has seen a definite increase of their knowledge of sustainable operations, and the UNCG Facilities staff tours played a big part.

“It was a great collaborative success,” she said. “The speakers and corresponding tours were engaging, interactive and reinforced the concepts we discussed in class. The students were able to learn directly from the experts who have firsthand experience with UNCG’s approach to sustainability.”

Sustainability Coordinator for Operations Dr. Shanna Eller agrees.

“The academic and Facilities partnership helps students see not just beyond the classroom walls,” she said. “But literally inside, underneath, above, between and among them – to the wires, waters, sensors, pipes, plumbing and all the parts that make our campus work. It’s a living lab for sustainable operations.”

Next semester, a pilot companion class will be offered through the Environmental and Sustainability Studies program – Sustainable Campus Operations, taught by Program Director Aaron Allen.

By Susan Kirby-Smith
Photos courtesy of Amanda Gale