Chris Anderson, LEED Green Associate, is an environmental studies major and a senior at University of California, Santa Barbara.
The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) offers LEED Lab as a yearlong course with an eclectic mixture of undergraduate and graduate students. Every year, students in this class work toward certifying a building on UCSB’s campus according to the requirements of the LEED v4 O+M rating system. Thanks to its year-long course structure, the same students who start the course at the beginning of the academic year, are the ones who achieve the certification at its close.
For the past three years, Brandon Kaysen, a Bren School alumnus and LEED AP, has coached students through the certification process of buildings across UCSB’s campus. After the Student Resource Building, Bren Hall is the second building to achieve a LEED v4 O+M certification thanks to LEED Lab. Near the conclusion of the immersive course, many of the students take an exam to earn their LEED Green Associate credential, a major stepping stone for a career in sustainability.
This year’s chosen building, Bren Hall, is home to UCSB’s prestigious Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and the environmental studies undergraduate department, the first program of its kind to be formed in the United States. In 2002, Bren Hall became the first laboratory facility to be certified LEED Platinum in the U.S. and the first LEED-certified building in the University of California system. In 2009, Bren Hall went a step further, also earning Platinum certification under the LEED for Existing Buildings rating system.
Designing with the environment in mind
To ensure efficient use of energy, Bren Hall was designed to harvest natural light, heating and cooling. The office wing has no mechanical air conditioning, relying only on passive cooling via operable windows. The roof has its own photovoltaic system, providing about 10 percent of the building's energy. Inside Bren Hall, the carpets, rubber flooring, wallboard, tiles and furniture are made with high percentages of post-consumer recycled content. Cleaned and re-dyed carpet tiles saved up to 40 tons of carpet from the landfill, while restroom stall partitions are made from 90 percent recycled plastics. Altogether, Bren Hall is composed of 40 percent recycled materials.
Bren Hall also has a landscape plan that is designed to minimize water use. In Southern California, the unpredictability of water availability is an integral feature of the climate. The landscaping is irrigated with 100 percent recycled water, delivered through an efficient drip system calibrated so that if an area receives precipitation, the system will compensate and reduce water allocation.
Learning by doing
LEED Lab is a unique, one-of-a-kind course that nurtures undergraduate and graduate students into green building professionals by allowing us an opportunity to work hands-on with a building to achieve LEED certification. Students in our class were assigned to a credit category and focused on achieving one or two individual credits. This established a realistic goal for each student to achieve by the time the project is submitted for review.
In addition, though, students often help one another with their individual and group credits, so that by the end of the class, everyone has an extensive knowledge of each individual credit and category and the LEED reference guide. The information that I garnered was also put to the test when I took and passed the LEED Green Associate exam.
I highly recommended LEED Lab for students who are interested in having a career related either to LEED specifically or sustainability generally. The class introduced me to the complexities of the LEED rating system, highlighted a diverse array of creative green building solutions, and drilled in the importance of documenting information pertaining to sustainable practices. I'm excited to take the information and experience that I obtained in LEED Lab and put it to work as I start a career in the flourishing field of green building.