Feature image: The LEED Silver Pearson Hall. Photo credit: Virginia Tech University Relations.
Universities across the country are emphasizing the importance of green building on their campuses, making healthier communities in which students and staff can learn, collaborate and thrive. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, is a prime example of a university advancing environmental responsibility and awareness for the community at large through LEED-certified buildings and student-led sustainability initiatives.
LEED-certified buildings on the Virginia Tech campus
The 2018 USGBC Virginia Leadership Awards recognized Virginia Tech as the winner of the "Green Leader" award, in the Organization category, for its ongoing support of USGBC’s mission in Virginia. Currently, the school has a total of 15 LEED-certified facilities, with six LEED Gold, seven LEED Silver and two LEED Certified spaces. The school’s Climate Action Commitment states that all new buildings and any major renovations should seek a LEED Silver rating or higher.
Indoor Athletic Training Facility
Indoor Athletic Training Facility. Photo credit: Virginia Tech University Relations.
The university's LEED Silver Indoor Athletic Training Facility is 210 feet wide and 400 feet long. Home to training and conditioning sessions for multiple sports in the athletic department, the building is a second home for athletes when inclement weather interrupts outdoor training. The operable glass walls do double duty to provide seamless transitions between indoor and outdoor fields and provide ventilation of the indoor space. This feature allows the building to function without an HVAC system.
During construction, the building used recycled and regional materials, including 11,213 square feet of Hokie Stone, quarried locally in Blacksburg. Under the LEED rating system’s Regional Priority credits, the project received points for reducing pollution and land development impacts from automobile use by situating the building near public transportation.
The residential hub that is Pearson Hall has 234 rooms for members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. While being built, the project team was able to divert more than 95 percent of construction waste from the landfill. Equally impressive is the material use throughout the space, with more than 21 percent of it having been previously recycled. The project team also emphasized the importance of water conservation by including fixtures that save 35 percent more potable water than code minimums. In overall energy performance, the LEED Silver dorm proves about 22 percent more energy-efficient than a comparable building.
Virginia Tech student-led sustainability initiatives
College students are a driving force of change for climate action, and students on Virginia Tech’s campus are fortunate to be able to connect with an active Office of Sustainability, leading several campus-wide initiatives for student engagement.
The Game Day Green program is one inspiring example of student action to promote sustainability and raise awareness about waste management. The idea was proposed by an intern at the Office of Sustainability in 2015, who shared a concern with many students about the vast amount of waste created by football games and tailgates.
Tailgate Green Team volunteers helping out with waste management after football tailgates. Photo credit: Karlee Siepierski.
The Office of Sustainability and student leaders built a system to raise game-goers' awareness about proper waste management methods and to provide easier access to recycling receptacles. This past football season alone, volunteers helped keep about 14,000 pounds of items from going to the landfill.