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Mara Baum

A green education hub, many of the nation’s most sustainable K-12 schools and colleges are within quick reach of central San Francisco. These institutions and communities have graciously opened their doors to Greenbuild attendees, offering tour-goers a rare insider’s view of the secrets behind the successes at a great group of youth spaces, as well as the deep green buildings & policies of University of California Berkeley, Mills College and Stanford University.

I’ll be the first to admit to a personal UC Berkeley bias, as I moved to the Bay Area 10+ years ago for grad school at Cal in architecture and city planning. During my time there, the institution evolved highly focused and successful green building and sustainability policies. The University of California system recently certified its 105th LEED project, six of which are on the Berkeley campus and four of which are stops on the Greenbuild tour. The tour guides will explain building design strategies like rainwater harvesting and carbon neutral systems, and they’ll use the walk through the iconic campus to share the inside scoop on challenges and successes of their policy process. Cal’s Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for Sustainability has truly blossomed since I first participated in its activities a decade ago; its student-staff-faculty partnership has become a model for other campus sustainability movements globally. Many University of California policies are groundbreaking, including requirements for net zero waste, greenhouse gas emissions to 1992 levels, and 20% sustainable food purchases by 2020 – and many of the UC campuses are very much on track to meet their targets; learn how they do it on the Saturday full day tour, “UC Berkeley: Mission-Driven Sustainability.” The Cal approach is valid not just for colleges and universities, but for other corporate and institutional campus types as well.

Berkeley’s not the only forefather of campus sustainability in the area; others, including Mills College – a private women’s school in Oakland – and Stanford University have also stepped up to the plate. The Mills College Saturday morning tour “Socially Responsible by Design” brings together the best of historic, classic campus design with modern high tech sustainability, including LEED Platinum and Gold buildings that feature rainwater harvesting, photovoltaics and more, while the Stanford's “Power Walk” Saturday tour focuses on its groundbreaking campus energy systems. These institutions also preach what they practice – they represent some of the leading colleges for renewable energy, sustainable design, green jobs, and other related programs.

The green schools and youth spaces movement has also pushed into the younger years, as is evident in the tour “Youth Uprising: Sustainable Spaces for Learning,” which visits SF Friends School in a renovated Levi's factory, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco’s Mission Clubhouse, and the Oakland Unified School District's Downtown Education Center. The Mission Clubhouse, for example, is a heartwarming example of how sustainability, construction and education collide, providing a safe and healthy learning environment for 150 children and teenagers every day. Originally built in 1928, it’s a LEED Gold gut rehab of a historic building that features passive ventilation, radiant heating, solar panels and more – including some great lessons learned for buildings striving for net zero energy.

These tours simultaneously provide a fun way to both earn your CEUs and witness the education of future generations of green building leaders. Make the most of your San Francisco visit by experiencing the full extent of the Bay Area’s green building offerings.