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It’s Not Just About Growth: Sustainable Master Plans Reframe the Big Picture

Posted By Matt Baker On June 13, 2013 @ 6:47 am | No Comments

A $220 million sustainable master plan helped Joliet Junior College, the nation's first public community college, respond to projected enrollment increases and future shifts in energy prices. It resulted in a climate action plan, six LEED buildings and a college-wide cultural shift toward sustainability. Credit: Joliet Junior College

A $220 million sustainable master plan helped Joliet Junior College, the nation’s first public community college, respond to projected enrollment increases and future shifts in energy prices. It resulted in a climate action plan, six LEED buildings and a college-wide cultural shift toward sustainability. Credit: Joliet Junior College

By Vuk Vujovic and Douglas Ogurek

To most building owners, doing the right thing for the environment feels great. But doing the right the thing for the bottom line at the same time feels twice as great.

Unsurprisingly, the main reason that building owners green their facilities is to save money. According to a survey by McGraw-Hill Construction [1], four of the “top ten triggers for green building programs” (among K-12 and higher education institutions) relate directly to future cost savings. “Reduce energy use” and “operating cost savings” claim the top of the list.

The owners of large campuses—whether schools, healthcare providers, municipalities, or corporations—are increasingly looking at integrated sustainable strategies to achieve long-term energy savings. They’ve discovered that the old mindset that advocates randomly adding green applications won’t do the trick.

Such “random acts of greenness,” though potentially useful or energy efficient, will never amount to substantial reductions in building energy and operations costs unless they are integrated holistically and applied systematically over a longer period of time.

Not long ago, master plans narrowed their focus to campus growth based on demographic projections. Today, however, the sustainability movement and an emphasis on fiscal and climate responsibility have added future operations, carbon emissions and energy costs to the mix. The result is the sustainable master plan.

Institutions that want to reduce both long-term operations costs and their carbon footprints can learn from the sustainable master plans of two of Illinois’ largest community colleges: Joliet Junior College [2] and the College of Lake County [3].

Nation’s Oldest Community College Transforms into Sustainable Leader

Joliet Junior College (JJC), the nation’s first public community college, moved to its current campus in the 1960s. Over the years, temporary buildings sprouted up around the campus to meet the college’s immediate needs. Many of those buildings turned out to be not so temporary.

At JJC's LEED-NC Gold certified Facility Services Building, LED lighting uses half the energy of traditional lights, while a geothermal system cuts HVAC expenses by 40% a year. Credit: Steinkamp Photography

At JJC’s LEED-NC Gold certified Facility Services Building, LED lighting uses half the energy of traditional lights, while a geothermal system cuts HVAC expenses by 40% a year. Credit: Steinkamp Photography

A few years back, the college signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment [4], which required tracking and reduction of JJC’s overall carbon footprint. At the same time, JJC concluded that its old campus could not meet the economic growth projected for the seven-county region it served. The needed campus expansion would virtually double the existing building area and, some feared, also double energy use, utility bills and related carbon emissions.

Legat Architects [5]devised a holistic sustainable master plan to address facility and site needs. It worked in tandem with JJC’s sustainability plan and a new climate action plan evaluating and proposing tactics to improve campus-wide energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and integrate sustainability into operations and the academic curriculum.

“The sustainable master plan created design criteria for future campus development,” says Jeffrey Sronkoski, director of higher education at Legat Architects. “It included a variety of green features, as well as a landscape plan that focused on preserving natural areas, and linking the curriculum to JJC’s rich natural ecology. The recommendations extended beyond design and construction to include operations and maintenance, as well as purchasing and services.”

Today, at nearly double the size it was five years ago, a repositioned JJC campus showcases what Chicago Architect magazine called “a highly sustainable set of new buildings that put the school at the forefront of environmentally smart campus planning.”

The plan reversed main access points to the campus; the site now welcomes visitors with a new “front door,” highlighted by the new Campus Center. The green swath of land that connects the center to the main parking lot exemplifies the benefits of integrating sustainability into the planning process: beneath the field lie 84 geothermal wells that reduce the energy toll. A glass wall display inside the Campus Center lets students view the system’s intricacies.

Ecological Sensitivity Equals Economic Prosperity

The LEED-NC Gold registered Campus Center serves as the new front door to Joliet Junior College's main campus. With its green roofs, rooftop photovoltaics and geothermal system display, the 115,000-square foot facility showcases the college's commitment to sustainability. Credit: Steinkamp Photography.

The LEED-NC Gold registered Campus Center serves as the new front door to Joliet Junior College’s main campus. With its green roofs, rooftop photovoltaics and geothermal system display, the 115,000-square foot facility showcases the college’s commitment to sustainability. Credit: Steinkamp Photography.

Six new LEED buildings grew from the JJC sustainable master plan. One of them, the Facilities Services Building, made JJC the first two-year college to achieve LEED-NC Gold certification for a building related to campus operations and maintenance.

The facility testifies to the importance of fiscal responsibility in sustainable master planning. The project team analyzed payback times for the facility’s high-performance systems. Pat Van Duyne, JJC’s director of facilities, said, “Fifteen years is a good payback time, but twenty years was considered acceptable because of the educational opportunities. Anything over twenty years, however, becomes difficult to justify.”

Using this measuring stick, the college approved many high-performance systems for the facility: geothermal HVAC, reflective roof surfaces, solar heat collectors, LED lighting, motion sensors for lighting and operable, high-efficiency windows. Photovoltaic arrays, however, didn’t make the cut; they had a thirty-year estimated payback.

The result is a facility that respects taxpayer dollars, while cutting energy use by 26% compared to a standard building of similar size. “We always work to find the most efficient, cost-effective means to operate while acting in an ecologically responsible manner,” said Kelly Rohder, JJC’s communications and external relations director. “The Facility Services Building is a symbol of the college’s commitment to energy efficiency and environmental respect.”

A Platinum Prospect: College of Lake County’s Plan for Grid-Free Operation

The College of Lake County (CLC) used its master planning process as a platform to elevate its sustainable campus operation to a new, visionary level. The 2012 master plan integrates CLC’s sustainability plan, climate action plan and operations into a cohesive set of interrelated strategies. It also outlines a vision of a carbon-neutral college campus, implementing on-site renewable energy to achieve utility grid-independent operation.

CLC’s academic programs and operation span three campuses: the main campus in Grayslake, the Southlake campus in Vernon Hills and the Lakeshore campus based in downtown Waukegan. With many buildings of various ages, sizes and uses, CLC saw the sustainable master plan as an opportunity to not only green, but also to fully modernize and standardize its campus operations.

For example, the Grayslake campus needed a complete replacement of its inefficient HVAC system in the two main buildings totaling 206,000 square feet. The existing mechanical systems were so outdated that spare parts had to be machined from scratch each time a replacement was needed.

A sustainable master plan highlighted by a geothermal field aims for carbon neutrality at CLC's campus by 2021. Credit: Legat Architects.

A sustainable master plan highlighted by a geothermal field aims for carbon neutrality at CLC’s campus by 2021. Credit: Legat Architects.

At the same campus, the new Science and Engineering addition was being designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification, with 21st century, high-performance “green labs” and as much as 5% of its building energy use provided by a large rooftop photovoltaic array.

Legat Architects customized a sustainable master plan aimed at rectifying these vast operational differences by modernizing all existing building systems, holding new facilities to the highest performance standard and gradually strengthening on-campus renewable energy capabilities. The combined goal of these sustainable strategies was to make CLC’s main campus in Grayslake carbon-neutral (and energy-independent/grid-free) by 2021. All future new construction is required to achieve LEED-NC Platinum certification, while all renovations will follow LEED-EBOM certification guidelines and Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education standards for optimal sustainable building operation.

Recognizing an increased public and industry interest in renewable energy power supply, CLC also plans to add a variety of on-site renewable energy demonstration projects on its campuses: fuel cell electrical power, solar water and air heating infrastructure, campus-wide geothermal technology, electric vehicle charging stations, commuter reduction and interior and exterior LED lighting. Most of these demonstration projects will be coupled with academic programs and training for professionals and trades seeking to acquire hands-on training of renewable energy technologies and green collar job skills.

Top Savings Found Below Ground: Geothermal

A ten-year phased energy use reduction plan shows how CLC could achieve carbon neutrality by 2021. Credit: Legat Architects.

A ten-year phased energy use reduction plan shows how CLC could achieve carbon neutrality by 2021. Credit: Legat Architects.

Perhaps CLC’s most ambitious energy use/energy cost reduction strategy is the master plan provision for a geothermal-based central plant and geothermal loop that would connect to and supply the entire Grayslake campus. Expected energy use reduction of at least 35% is expected across the campus resulting from this measure alone.

“Our long-term goal is to have the entire campus on geothermal within ten years,” said David Agazzi, vice president of administrative affairs. “Geothermal is the most cost-effective option that is also sustainable.”

The ring of wells that surround the campus will drastically reduce HVAC costs. Again, buildings will showcase the geothermal system for instructional purposes.

A Clear View to Clean Energy

The consequences of using dirty fossil fuel energy continue to surface. For instance, a 2009 National Academy of Sciences [6] study revealed that each year, the U.S. spends over $120 billion in health costs stemming from burning fossil fuels.

Fortunately, the world is responding with renewable energy investments that help reduce carbon emissions, and decrease dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The International Energy Agency [7]reports that between 2011 and 2012, global solar photovoltaic and wind technologies increased 42% and 19% respectively.

Clint Wilder, senior editor of market research firm Clean Edge [8], told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [9]that last year in the U.S., nearly half the new energy capacity added was renewable energy. He said, “More new capacity came online from wind power in 2012 than from natural gas.”

The sustainable master plan unifies opportunities made possible by these investments, and gives building owners the clearest picture for doing the right thing…for the environment, and for the bottom line.


About the Authors

Vuk Vujovic, LEED AP BD+C (vvujovic@legat.com [10]; 312.756.1266) is director of sustainable design at Legat Architects, co-chair of the AIA Chicago Committee on the Environment (COTE), and campus outreach team leader at the USGBC Illinois Higher Education Committee. Douglas Ogurek, LEED AP BD+C (dogurek@legat.com [11]) is a member of the sustainable team at Legat Architects.


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URL to article: http://www.sustainable-chicago.com/2013/06/13/its-not-just-about-growth-sustainable-master-plans-reframe-the-big-picture/

URLs in this post:

[1] McGraw-Hill Construction: http://construction.com/

[2] Joliet Junior College: http://www.jjc.edu/Pages/default.aspx

[3] College of Lake County: http://www.clcillinois.edu/

[4] American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment: http://www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/

[5] Legat Architects : http://www.legat.com/

[6] National Academy of Sciences: http://www.nasonline.org/

[7] The International Energy Agency : http://www.iea.org/

[8] Clean Edge: http://www.cleanedge.com/

[9] Milwaukee Journal Sentinel : http://www.jsonline.com/

[10] vvujovic@legat.com: http://www.sustainable-chicago.comhttp://mailto:vvujovic@legat.com

[11] dogurek@legat.com: http://www.sustainable-chicago.comhttp://mailto:dogurek@legat.com

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