Building a green campus

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Last Monday, I attended my first UMD for Clean Energy meeting. The group\’s purpose is to advocate for sustainability on and around the campus. As an environmental science and policy major, I had been wanting to check it out.

Discussion focused on East Campus, a proposed development to be built across Route 1 by the university in partnership with The Cordish Companies. To my surprise, I learned the development is not just one new dorm but an entire community spanning from Fraternity Row to Paint Branch Parkway — an area about six times the size of McKeldin Mall. This vast expanse will include student housing, restaurants and retail space. Furthermore, completing the project will require ripping out multiple existing buildings.

In 2009, this university unveiled a Climate Action Plan, a document that commits the university to carbon neutrality by 2050. East Campus will be included in the university\’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and the East Campus buildings will last for decades. To have any hope of achieving the 2050 goal, the East Campus community must be built with sustainability in mind.

What would the university and The Cordish Companies have to do to build sustainably? To begin, East Campus should have walking and biking paths and must be connected to the rest of the campus by quick and reliable bus routes. There should be sufficient green space for rainwater to sink into the soil so that runoff does not pollute waterways.

Constructing rooftop gardens and building paths with water-permeable pavement could be important components of this more natural stormwater management system. Most importantly, buildings must be constructed with sustainable materials and be energy efficient. The university currently requires new buildings to earn a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design Silver certification — the third highest ranking in a commonly accepted ranking system for green construction. But building to LEED Gold standards would affirm the university as a nationwide leader in sustainable development and move us one step closer to carbon neutrality.

The campus\’s Climate Action Plan requires reducing waste and pushing the envelope on energy efficiency. But this will not happen without student involvement. So here\’s where you come in: Tomorrow there will be a forum in Ritchie Coliseum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the East Campus project will be put up for public commentary. The Coliseum is easily accessible by taking the Shuttle-UM Blue route bus or crossing Route 1 at The Dairy. The more people who come to ask questions about this development\’s environmental impact, the more seriously sustainability will factor into construction. You can also sign the petition for a greener East Campus at www.umdforcleanenergy.org. Maps of the proposed site, a flyer for the forum, East Campus\’ history and more can be found at www.eastcampus.umd.edu.

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