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UND ranked among greenest colleges

Recent building projects with sustainable, energy-efficient designs helped UND make the list of the nation's greenest higher-education institutions for the second year in a row.

JLG Architects rendering of Gorecki Alumni Center
Once construction is completed this fall, the Gorecki Alumni Center on the UND campus will become North Dakota's first building to achieve Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. The $12 million, 30,000-square-foot building is expected to see energy savings of 30 to 40 percent compared to a traditional building, as well as more efficient use of water and lower maintenance costs.

Recent building projects with sustainable, energy-efficient designs helped UND make the list of the nation's greenest higher-education institutions for the second year in a row.

That includes a complete overhaul and addition to the Education Building completed last year, putting the building on track to achieve Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

Other examples include the Gorecki Alumni Center, which will become the first building in the state to be LEED Platinum certified once construction is complete, as well as the University Place residence hall that was built to LEED Silver guidelines.

Buildings get LEED certified for being energy efficient, using renewable energy sources, reducing waste during construction and so on.

But it's "not just about the facilities," said university spokesman Peter Johnson.


"We really embedded this notion of 'powered by green,' if you will, into the university and how we can be more sustainable," he said.

UND was highlighted in the Princeton Review's "Guide to 322 Green Colleges-2012 Edition" released Monday. It was the only higher education institution in North Dakota to get a mention in the guide. Ten schools in Minnesota, including Bemidji State University, also made the list.

Green traits

The Princeton Review praised UND for retrofitting 59 percent of its buildings to more energy-efficient lighting, as well as the university's emphasis on recycling efforts that keeps about 500 tons of waste out of area landfills each year.

UND's Energy and Environmental Research Center also helped the university make the cut, including the center's work to create a biofuel for jets created from crop oils and animal fats that could "transform" the aviation industry.

Johnson said UND also has several academic programs that deal with sustainability issues, including the Department of Earth System Science and Policy.

The Princeton Review surveyed administrators at 768 U.S. and Canadian colleges, giving each institution a score from 60 to 99 based on answers to 50 questions that include environmental policies, campus quality of life that's sustainable and healthy, and how well they prepare students to be environmentally-sensitive citizens. The 322 schools in the 2012 guide each had scores of 83 or higher; UND's green rating was 87.

Greener, better


An emphasis on being "powered by green" has had two big benefits for UND, Johnson said.

He said sustainable buildings are cost-effective -- UND put more than $11 million into its overhaul of the education building, but Johnson said many of the new energy efficiency systems installed during the upgrade will pay for themselves in just a few years from reduced energy costs.

"We'll actually end up spending less on that building in the long run," he said. "I think it makes us better stewards of the resources."

That renovation, and similar upgrades on other campus buildings, also has led to a "better experience" for the students, he said.

Johnson said part of the education building renovation was installing skylights in the ceiling of the lecture bowl. The professor can close the lights if they need to show a film, and they can open up the skylights to allow sunlight to illuminate the room during the day -- a natural, free alternative to the sterile fluorescent lighting that otherwise would be used.

"There's an emotional benefit," he said. "I think it's actually a better environment for the students and faculty and staff."

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send email to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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