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Expanding green efforts

By: Chelsee Boehm

In an effort to support sustainability initiatives around campus, Weber State University faculty and students recently created a student chapter of the United States Green Building Council.

[media-credit name=”Tyler Brown” align=”alignright” width=”200″][/media-credit]

Solar panels installed on top of the Shepherd Union Building. Weber State University faculty and students recently formed a student chapter of the United States Green Building Council.

USGBC is a nonprofit organization for educating Americans on the importance of sustainable building. USGBC, which has chapters across the U.S., formed a division in 2010 focused on educating and involving students.

Jeremy Farner, assistant professor of engineering technology at WSU, worked as regional chair in Utah to help major universities become involved with the USGBC. The University of Utah was the first to take on the task, followed by Utah State University and then WSU.  Farner had wanted WSU to be first, but U of U and USU had prior affiliations with the USGBC.

After establishing the club at WSU, Farner became the adviser. He began speaking to his students about their interest in the council and on whether or not they wanted to be involved.

“I wanted it be student driven, rather than faculty driven,” Farner said.

Aaron Conlin, a senior at WSU, who is getting his bachelor’s degree in integrated studies with a focus in architecture, became the president of the council after Farner asked him if he wanted to get involved. Conlin said he was first interested in the USGBC because he wanted to know how people were able to make buildings “green.”

The WSU student chapter of USGBC had its first meeting on Jan. 19, 2012.

“(USGBC’s goal) is to make the students aware of what they can do to make buildings green,” Conlin said.

The members of the club are currently preparing to take the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green associate exam. LEED is a system created by the USGBC in which buildings are graded for their sustainability. The building can be awarded points for many different things, including water efficiency, location and energy consumption. Buildings can be awarded a silver, gold or platinum rating. Elizabeth Hall and the Hurst Building have both been awarded silver ratings, and all new buildings built at WSU are required to reach silver standards.

Another member of the USGBC, Jennifer Bodine, is the sustainability specialist in WSU’s State’s Energy and Sustainability office.  The office helps monitor WSU’s energy usage. Bodine became a member after Farner contacted and told her about the council and its goals.

Bodine is LEED certified and can tell other members of the club what it really takes to pass the LEED green associate exam.

“Learning LEED not only teaches students the points system,” Bodine said, “but they also learn about sustainability and why (it is important).”

As for the future of the USGBC, Conlin said he hopes the club will begin working with WSU’s environmental club as they share similar ideas on learning how to build more efficiently and use water more wisely.

This March, the USGBC club will compete in a nation-wide competition called the Campus Conservation Nationals. The purpose of the competition is to see which schools can conserve the most electricity and water over a three-week period after observing the average energy consumption in buildings on their campuses.

The USGBC is using a website sponsored by the competition that helps them constantly monitor the energy consumption of each dorm room at Wildcat Village. After finding the average amount of energy consumed, they will then ask the occupants to be more energy conscious. Residents will be encouraged to adopt environmentally-friendly habits, such as turning lights off when they leave a room or unplugging an appliance they are not using, for three weeks and note the difference. The occupants of the dorm that is able to conserve the most will be rewarded.

USGBC will host a kickoff party for the event Feb. 16.

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