The Sustainable Campus (Trends and Innovations)

Living and Learning Green

A leader and innovator, the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) commits to a sustainable future through the planning and enforcement of a Climate Action Plan (CAP). UC San Diego has made significant progress in areas such as academics and research, energy and climate, sustainable operations, environmentally preferable procurement, waste diversion, clean transportation, and water conservation. With the development and enforcement of a CAP with specific goals and timelines developed from operational baseline data, the campus is on a trajectory to meet its many ambitious sustainability goals; namely, to be climate neutral by 2025.

A New Project

This all-inclusive transformational plan also supports many state and regional climate change objectives. At the building-scale, the CAP is integrated within new university project developments such as North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN) to support climate neutrality. Modelled after traditional mixed-use urban forms, NTPLLN will be an interdisciplinary education environment that blends academic, residential, commercial, and cultural programming that attempts to reduce the impact of the built environment for current and future generations prominently positioned at the centre of the UC San Diego campus. Clark Construction Group will work in partnership with HKS and Safdie Rabines Architects to design and construct the vibrant 1.5-million-square-foot community (includes housing for 2,000 students within seven mixed-use buildings) which will be the new home for UC San Diego’s Sixth College, as well as the university’s Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities departments.

Supported by several performance frameworks including LEED, Parksmart, CALGreen, and the AIA 2030 Commitment, the integrated sustainability features target carbon-neutral operations by embracing initiatives that will measurably reduce energy consumption, water use, and waste that will ensure for more sustainable operations to meet the future needs of UC San Diego administration, faculty, and students. Designed for LEED v3 Platinum certification, the campus takes full advantage of the local micro-climate to deliver improved environmental quality and better occupant comfort within indoor and outdoor space at multiple levels. Active and passive integrated sustainable features include a modular micro-aerobic digester, a photovoltaic system to power the parking structure, and operable windows that provide natural ventilation.

To advance campus efforts towards carbon neutrality the NTPLLN Design Build Team integrated an on-site modular microanaerobic digester. The anaerobic digester provides on-site generation of electrical energy from organic food waste and materials while producing valuable enrichened liquid fertilizer for community gardens. This diverts waste from the landfill and eliminates the emissions generated from offsite trucking. The anaerobic digester acts as a closed-loop system where the conversion of organics into fuel and nutrients promotes the concept of community-based, farm-to-table-and-back-to-farm life cycle.

Setting Goals for LEED and More

Referencing the chancellor’s vision for the university and goals identified in the 2008 UC San Diego CAP, in collaboration with UCSD staff, Clark and HKS facilitated a multidisciplinary immersion course that utilized NTPLLN as a living example of how LEED’s comprehensive approach to the built environment can substantially improve environmental outcomes at various scales. The pilot course adopts the framework of LEED Lab, designed specifically for LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M), but in the context of LEED Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C) both in theory and application. Students were given the opportunity to connect and engage with professionals who are designing and delivering NTPLLN by reviewing prerequisites and credits related to site considerations, energy use, water consumption, waste management, and occupant comfort. They also learned how to evaluate a project’s impact on the surrounding land and ecosystem. The desired outcome of the LEED Living Lab pilot course was to use the built environment to broaden the view for students so that they can mature into sustainability-focused citizens and become leaders in their fields of studies.

Enforcing climate action plans are particularly important for the state of California where aggressive greenhouse gas reductions are demanded and are setting the pace for the nation. The desired outcome is to improve public health and air quality, conserve water, efficiently use existing resources, and increase clean energy production, thereby improving the quality of life. The University of California, San Diego is leading by enhancing the overall health of the campus community with their transformative living and learning neighborhood.

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management July/August 2018 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Tommy Zakrzewski, Ph.D., BEMP, CEM, CMVP, LEED-AP BD+C O+M, is director of Integrative Energy Engineering for HKS (