Written by Samantha Ellman, Carbon Neutrality Engagement Fellow

In September 2018, the Student Resource Building (SRB) received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification for Existing Buildings from the U.S. Green Building Council. This is an amazing accomplishment for UC Santa Barbara as the campus strives to create more sustainable spaces to work, live, and learn. For those unclear about what LEED is,

the U.S. Green Building Council describes it as

a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings, and a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement. LEED awards points to buildings based on their environmental success in the following areas:

  • Location and Transportation

  • Sustainable Sites

  • Water Efficiency

  • Energy and Atmosphere

  • Materials and Resources

  • Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Innovation in Design

There are four levels of LEED certification: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. Each of these levels requires a minimum amount of points, and every LEED certified project must have a minimum energy performance and some prerequisite features such as water metering and management of recyclables.

The “Green Building Living Lab” class at UCSB, ES194GB, is a year long, immersive course that teaches students a breadth of information on sustainable buildings. Each year that the class is offered, students choose a UC Santa Barbara building that they want to get LEED certified under the Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance system. Through the hard work of those involved in the ES194GB class, the SRB, which had previously received a LEED Gold certification, attained Platinum status in September, 2018.

Andrew Riley, Sustainability Coordinator for UCSB Student Affairs, and Brandon Kaysen, the ES194GB instructor, were able to provide insight on where the SRB made improvements in the operation of the building. In the category of sustainable sites, the SRB earned an additional three points from the last assessment. The first way they did this was by improving heat island reduction with the addition of a white roof covered in heat-reflecting paint, which decreased thermal radiation due to the increased albedo. The second way was through improving site management by transitioning to all electric equipment for the grounds crew, including electric lawn mowers. The third point came from initiating a site improvement plan to prevent stormwater pollution and reduce water use. New water submetering was installed to better track water use. Additional points were also earned for purchasing sustainably harvested materials and properly recycling any demolition materials. Finally, the SRB received an additional two points for indoor environmental quality. All new paints and carpets are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the doormats minimize dust and dirt air pollution, and harsh chemicals were replaced with green cleaning equipment and pesticide-free integrated pest management.  

The SRB and ES194GB are brilliant examples of how our campus can serve as a living lab for projects that help create a more sustainable future.