Constructing Eco-friendly Universities across America

Environmentally sustainable building design isn’t just for office buildings and residential structures these days. In fact, university campuses are at the forefront of eco-friendly technology when it comes to building design that doesn’t sacrifice aesthetics for efficiency and function. Many colleges and universities across America have put a priority on curbing climate change, and over 600 higher education presidents have signed a pledge to make their institutions carbon neutral.

These are some of the greenest universities and a little about the buildings that make them so environmentally responsible.

Oberlin College

Oberlin College tops the eco-friendly university chart because it gives priority to local food producers, offers a car-sharing program, and gets at least half of its electricity from renewable sources. Faculty and students designed a web-based system to monitor energy and water usage in dorms, and the school recently won a National Wildlife Federation award for replacing all incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. The Bertram and Judith Kohl Building is one of the most notable for its geothermal heating and cooling system and roof garden.

Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College
Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College

College of the Atlantic

Located in Bar Harbor, Maine, the College of the Atlantic is a small school of only a few hundred students studying human ecology – broken down into arts and design, environmental sciences and human studies. This was the first college in the United States to go carbon neutral back in 2007, and local organically-sourced food is served for all meals on campus. All electricity on campus comes from renewable hydropower, and many buildings are heated by renewable wood pellets.

University of Washington

Seattle’s University of Washington has been voted one of the greenest universities for many years now. Not only does the university employ sustainable practices in recycling, composting, waste reduction, heating, and cooling, but it also has a recycling center and three farms on campus. The university’s transportation center building, for example, is LEED Platinum certified, built with locally sourced materials, and features bike storage and locker rooms with showers to encourage bike commuting.

University of Washington's Lewis Hall
University of Washington’s Lewis Hall

Warren Wilson College

Sustainability is at the heart of Warren Wilson College, a small institution in Swannanoa, North Carolina. This is a school that knows how to support itself, right down to gathering its own lumber from managed forests and harvesting its own food from organic gardens on campus. This school had the first LEED Platinum design for a dorm, and the Building Services Department recently became 100 percent GreenSeal Certified. The street lamps are powered by solar energy and designed to limit light pollution.

University of Colorado at Boulder

The Sierra Club ranked the University of Colorado at Boulder was #1 for “greenest colleges” in 2009, and the school continues to lead the nation in sustainable practices. It is one of the most experienced campuses for eco-friendly practices, with a recycling program that started in 1973 and a bus pass program in 1991. With a little help from the National Renewable Energy Labs, the school created the Wind Research Park, with wind turbines that provide energy to the entire state.

Photo credit: Roy Luck and Curtis Cronn via Flickr

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