In the United States alone, there are more than 4,300 colleges and universities—and each of these institutions have a campus of anywhere from one to several hundred buildings. Colleges and universities are centers of communities across the nation and around the world, educating the next generation of future leaders, professionals, consumers and global sustainability citizens. At the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, we believe that healthy, safe, inspiring and resource-efficient places for learning are vital in preparing the next generation for their professional and personal lives.
Creating global citizens
Implementing green building policies and strategies can transform our colleges and universities in powerful ways and help faculty, staff and students seize interconnected opportunities. Green schools reduce the environmental impact of buildings and grounds, have a positive effect on health and prepare students to be global sustainability citizens. Higher education institutions are committing to sustainability and climate neutrality on a daily basis and have shown tremendous leadership in the green building movement. Currently, there are over 7,400 higher education projects participating in LEED, comprising nearly 700 million square feet of space.
At the heart of this push are facility managers and sustainability professionals, who are responsible for managing the physical aspects and daily operations of a campus and who play a key role in contributing to sustainability planning at the campus level. In influencing campus sustainability measures such as student and staff transportation methods or how a university’s buildings are powered, facility managers play a central role in determining the impact of the institution on the built environment.
Transforming campus facilities
However, many colleges and universities are underfunded and lack the resources facility managers need to implement campus sustainability programs. With the goal of transforming existing campus facilities, USGBC sought to develop a clear vision for the future. LEED Lab, an innovative solution for integrating sustainable practices into daily campus operations and maintenance that is directly powered by students, is a critical part of our strategy.
As an interactive multidisciplinary immersion course, LEED Lab is designed to transform both the built and academic environment at higher education institutions around the world, while preparing students for 21st century careers in sustainability. In the LEED Lab course, students learn the principles of LEED and assess the performance of existing facilities on campus, choosing one building where they will facilitate the LEED Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) process. Students drive the complete process of LEED O+M on a campus facility, with the goal of certifying the building.
By participating in LEED Lab, campus sustainability professionals and facilities managers can use their greatest untapped resources to achieve LEED O+M certification—students at their own institution—and in doing so, bridge the capacity gap on campus for sustainable integration efforts. The campus environment serves as the perfect learning laboratory to engage students in projects that are experiential in nature, providing them with the knowledge, expertise and skills needed to solve 21st century challenges. Our vision for campus sustainability is simple: to integrate LEED O+M strategies so that our campus buildings perform at a higher level, human health is prioritized and enhanced and we are training the next generation of sustainability leaders by engaging students in the process.
Offer LEED Lab at your institution, and partner with us to prepare the next generation for 21st century careers in sustainability.