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September 21, 2023

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The Oaks earns LEED certification for sustainability

Fittingly for a building called The Oaks, the dining facility was recently recognized for being green.

The Oaks dining facility was recently LEED gold certified by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and certification is awarded to buildings that are designed with an emphasis on lowering their environmental impact.

The certifications are, from less to more sustainable: LEED certified, LEED silver, LEED gold and LEED platinum.

Opened in 2011, The Oaks has been waiting for LEED certification for close to four years. Dave Maley, director of facilities and asset management, said the wait was because of the inherently sluggish certification process.

“The process can be very slow depending on the building and the extent of the features submitted,” Maley said. “Everything must be documented and formally submitted for review.”

Maley said criteria for certification includes materials and resources, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, indoor environmental quality, innovation, regional environmental credits and green infrastructure and building among others.

Structures are graded based on a preset scorecard. Nick Hennessy, sustainability coordinator for the University, likened it to taking a test.

“Whenever you get LEED status, you literally have a scoresheet,” Hennessy said. “It’s like getting an exam back. Your teacher has graded it, and you know what you got on each section.”

According to Hennessy, much of the reason The Oaks achieved gold status was the educational aspect of the building. The Oaks regularly conducts tours of the facility, highlighting various aspects of its sustainable architecture and planning. The building also has what Hennessy called the “Green Hallway” near the entrance which displays environmental facts.

Maley said additional time spent by the USGBC in assessing this educational aspect was another reason certification didn’t happen immediately.

Education isn’t the only aspect of The Oaks overall “green” approach. The facility also features a water reclamation system that recycles rainwater for use in The Oaks’ toilets and irrigation systems, large glass windows used for natural lighting and bike racks, among other features.

The Oaks is only one of four buildings on campus that are LEED certified, the others being the Stroh Center which is gold, and the Wolfe Center and Carillon Place which are both silver.

These are in accordance with the President’s Climate Commitment (PCC), which the University signed in 2012.

The PCC states that all schools that sign the commitment must build all new structures with the intention of having them LEED certified.

When all is said and done, Hennessy said it’s always a bonus when students are able to both enjoy a facility and learn from it as well.

“Yes, it is a dining center,” Hennessy said. “But at the same time, it’s an opportunity for education.”

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