Mahesh Ramanujam

This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of IA&B magazine, as "Building Future Capacity for the Green Building Industry: Sustainability and LEED in Higher Education." 

At USGBC, we believe that everyone entering a classroom should have the opportunity to learn in a green school and take that knowledge of sustainable practices with them into their future. We are actively connecting with campuses all over the world to change the way their buildings are designed, built and operated. We work toward transformation for the built environment though our globally recognized LEED green building program.

The state of sustainability in higher education 

Higher education institutions are committing to sustainability and climate neutrality on a daily basis and have shown tremendous leadership in the green building movement. Currently, there are over 6,800 projects participating in LEED, comprising over 657 million square feet of space. But there is still work to be done, especially in existing buildings.

Since it can take up to 80 years to make up for the environmental impacts of demolishing an old building and constructing a new one, LEED for Building Operation and Maintenance holds incredible promise for existing campus facilities. LEED O+M promotes the ongoing implementation of best practices in building operations with the goal of sustaining high levels of performance throughout the life of a building. By employing these strategies and certifying a building to LEED O+M, campuses ensure their building can maintain and improve current performance over time. The implementation of LEED O+M reduces the environmental impact of buildings and grounds, has a positive effect on student, faculty and staff health, and prepares students to be global sustainability citizens.

Our solution: utilizing your untapped resources with LEED Lab™

With the goal of transforming existing campus facilities, USGBC sought to develop a clear vision for the future. LEED Lab, an innovative solution for integrating sustainable practices into daily campus operations and maintenance that is directly powered by students, is a critical part of our strategy. As an interactive, multi-disciplinary immersion course, LEED Lab is designed to transform the academic environment by preparing students for competitive 21st century careers in the booming green building economy.

LEED Lab has gone global and I am proud to state that The Knowledge Institute of Technology (KIOT) in Salem, Tamil Nadu will adopt this pioneering, multidisciplinary course. KIOT will begin their LEED Lab course in February 2016 and will target between 25 and 30 students studying civil engineering. KIOT strongly believes the concept of LEED Lab will allow students to jump-start their careers upon graduation and their participation in the course will serve as inspiration to other Indian colleges for adoption.

In the course, students learn the principles of LEED and assess the performance of existing facilities on campus, choosing one building where they will facilitate the LEED O+M process. Students lead the complete process of LEED O+M on a campus facility with the goal of certifying the facility. The campus environment serves as the perfect learning laboratory to engage students in projects that are experiential in nature, providing these individuals with the knowledge, expertise and skills needed to solve 21st century challenges. By participating in LEED Lab, campus sustainability officials and facilities manager can utilize untapped resources to achieve LEED O+M certification— students at their own institution—and, in doing so, bridge the building capacity gap on campus for sustainable integration efforts.

KIOT’s principal, Dr. P.S.S. Srinivasan, noted recently that the future of the world depends on our ability to live and build more sustainably, and KIOT sees its relationship with USGBC and GBCI as an opportunity to play a key role in this journey. Every story about a LEED building is a story about leaders. Leaders across the globe understand that LEED is a powerful market tool that works. Dr. Srinivasan is no exception. His progressive vision is creating a more sustainable future for KIOT.

Pontifical Catholic University of Peru

LEED Lab was launched in the U.S. in 2013 at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Since then, it has expanded worldwide, with 18 universities all over the world participating in the program, including Feng Chia University in Taiwan and Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) in Peru, and an additional 100 international universities in the pipeline. With KIOT ‘s adoption of LEED LAB, they are committing to building healthier, more sustainable communities where buildings perform at a higher level and human health is prioritized and enhanced—and through student participation in the process, training the next generation of sustainability leaders.

Greening the environment and educating our future leaders to build capacity in the marketplace is critical to carrying out our mission of global market transformation. LEED Lab, and the leadership of KIOT, will allow India to achieve market transformation of green buildings for all of India and, by extension, strengthen our planet and its people. Join LEED Lab today and help us achieve green schools for everyone within this generation.

To learn more about LEED Lab, visit www.centerforgreenschools.org.