Summit Hall shines in sustainability thanks to students and staff

While most “green” buildings are recognized for their sustainable design and construction, more are gaining recognition for showcasing sustainable practices in a different way – one that involves the attitudes and behaviors of the people who use the buildings.

CSU’s Summit Hall is one of those buildings. The on-campus residence hall has been awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification in the Existing Buildings, Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) category, one of the highest ratings available. The system was developed for existing commercial and institutional buildings, and is applicable to building operations, processes, systems upgrades and minor space use changes and is targeted toward building owners and operators of the existing building.

Nearly three years ago, CSU Housing & Dining staff set out to make Summit Hall more sustainable, through a combination of renovation and changes in policies and programs within the building.

Summit Hall is the first building on campus to receive LEED for EBOM certification.

Summit HallAchieving LEED certification for existing buildings is not easy, especially for university campuses,” said April Brown, project manager at CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment. “After the feasibility analysis, we knew that Summit Hall was a good candidate for a number of reasons, including the high Energy Star score, planned water reduction retrofits, an established culture of alternative transportation, and some green cleaning practices that were already standard.

“There were, however, several elements of the certification that made it difficult, including additional funding for outside contractors, ventilation requirements and modifications, policy development and approval, and the number of man-hours for Housing & Dining staff to track and monitor progress of strategies and complete LEED forms,” Brown added.

The LEED rating system, developed by U.S. Green Building Council, is the foremost program for buildings that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.

The recognition for Summit Hall comes in light of the campus’s highest ever STARS rating in March and on the heels of ranking on Princeton Review’s 2015 Green Honor Roll and earning a high slot in Sierra Magazine’s “Coolest Schools” list of top green colleges in September.

“LEED for EBOM is about how the building is operated and maintained,” said Tonie Miyamoto, director of communications for CSU’s Housing & Dining Services. “The rating focuses on how residents use energy and how staff clean and order supplies rather than on the selection of materials the building was constructed with. We saw a high level of staff and resident engagement in this process that was very rewarding.”

And it’s that engagement that is paying off now.

Greener and cleaner

In the building’s cleaning operations, 56 percent of all cleaning materials and products purchased meet the LEED for EBOM sustainability criteria, in addition to 30 percent of cleaning equipment purchased.

Eco Leaders at Summit Hall
Eco-Leaders help fellow students make sub-irrigated planters from plastic water bottles at a 2013 craft night in Summit Hall.

“When the LEED for EBOM process started, I was just coming to Summit Hall and we got certified in Green Cleaning as part of the process,” said Mary Contreras, who was the Environmental Services Supervisor at the time. “Removing chemicals from our cleaning and using the new microfiber e-cloths was a big change, and we weren’t sure about it. But we did bacteria swab tests and they proved that the e-cloths were working. Once we got into it, it was easier and better than we thought. It is better for our staff and better for our students. You can really see the results.”

Fifty percent of Summit Hall employees also use alternative means to commute to work other than single occupancy vehicles, and nearly 14 percent of the building’s student residents committed to making more sustainable behavior choices as part of the Green Warrior campaign.

On the construction side, 74 percent of all living, work, and common spaces have a direct line of sight to the outdoors. Low-flow aerators and showerheads were installed that use 45 percent less water than a baseline building – just another minor change with a significant impact.

Carbon credits also were purchased to offset 100 percent of the building’s total energy use. Greenhouse gas emissions generated by the project building and associated grounds during the performance period were tracked, recorded and reported.

Summit Hall achieved an Energy Star rating of 85 and is in the 35th percentile – an achievement that is higher the national median.

“The strength of USGBC has always been the collective strength of our leaders in the building industry,” said Rick Fredrizzi, President, CEO and founding chair of USBGC. “Given the extraordinary importance of climate protection and the central role of the building industry in that effort, CSU’s Housing & Dining Services demonstrates their leadership through their LEED certification of Summit Hall.”