Recently, we announced that the second LEED Lab project has received certification. Led by instructors Cassidy Green and Brandon Kaysen, the University of California, Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) Student Resources Building achieved LEED Gold certification under LEED v4 Building: Operation and Maintenance (O+M). We met up with Cassidy and Brandon to discuss why they started a LEED Lab at UCSB, how the course has affected students, and more.
What was the impetus for starting a LEED Lab?
Brandon: Cassidy and I knew that this would be a fantastic opportunity to further UCSB’s sustainability goals while providing an opportunity for students to acquire real-world skills and understand what it takes to run a real project. In the end, LEED Lab was seen as a win-win-win for the campus, students and the environmental studies department.
Cassidy: As LEED Program Coordinator, I really wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was working on a university campus. I also believed that my work in managing the LEED certification of campus buildings wasn’t being directly shared with students. I found a deep interest in green buildings, but any education I received on the subject came after graduation, and I wanted to ensure that students were exposed to green building as a possible career path. LEED Lab achieved all of these things.
What has the student interest been in this course?
Cassidy: Student interest was incredibly high. Not every course offers the opportunity to do hands-on work on a project with a tangible campus impact, and that was something many students were interested in. As a result of high student interest and success of the course, the Environmental Studies department became very interested in continuing this course and hands-on courses like it.
How has the course impacted the students? Has the experience had any influence on their future career paths?
Brandon: This course has impacted the students in a number of ways. The students in the class applied for and won a TGIF (The Green Initiative Fund) grant to subsidize students to take the LEED Green Associate exam. Since then, six students have successfully taken advantage of this program and have furthered their credentials. Students have reached out to me saying that not only was this one of their most entertaining courses, but they also learned a lot of valuable skills—not only in building sustainability, but also in communication and project management. With the course being so new, it is hard to say whether or not it has made an impact on future career paths, but one thing that I can say is that it truly has opened their eyes to new career options that they were unaware of before taking LEED Lab. Students have certainly used their experiences within the course as conversation pieces when in interview settings, pulling from critical experiences to justify employment.
Cassidy: I think the course really impacted some of the students in a positive way. One of the students, a graduating senior, told us that it was his absolute favorite class of any he had taken in his four years at UCSB—what an amazing thing to hear! Several students have told us that being a part of LEED Lab helped them gain employment either in the green building field, or because it was an intensive project that students could show off during interviews.
UCSB doesn’t offer many of the typical degree programs one would think would be engaged in this type of course. Which majors were involved in the course over the past two years? Were there any challenges having non-building science disciplines?
Cassidy: Most of the students who participated in LEED Lab came from the environmental studies major. A few were Bren School of Environmental Science and Management grad students, some geography majors, and a couple physics majors. Since environmental studies is so broad, students came in with almost no existing experience with building science, which was really only a challenge with technical credits like the ventilation prerequisite. Most of the concepts around the LEED credits could be learned and the documentation completed regardless of major. Our intent in creating the course was that it would be more interdisciplinary, since green building and sustainability should involve all disciplines if it's going to be accessible and successful.