Georgia Southern University: Actively Going Green

At Georgia Southern University, a century-old institution in Statesboro, going green is becoming part of the culture — a mindset playing an important role in plans for the university’s future growth.

Founded in 1906 as a district agricultural school, Georgia Southern has become a regional university that draws its 16,000-plus students from every state and 86 nations.

The catalyst for sustainability at Georgia Southern is a newly constructed, 135,000-sq-ft., $31M addition to the University’s student Recreation Activity Center (RAC), on track for LEED certification. The facility, which opened last year, is helping drive the green movement, which includes a Campus Master Plan and upcoming sustainable design guidelines for all newly constructed or renovated buildings.

“These plans give us the ability to take the campus into the future in the correct way,” said Haroun Homayun, campus architect, who spearheaded the green design of the RAC. “Students evaluate the environmental aspects of a campus when they make their choice of schools to attend.”

Campus Master Plan

The University has developed a Campus Master Plan that calls for improved mass transit, water conservation, and energy conservation. A newly appointed environmental sustainability manager will develop action steps related to the Presidents Climate Commitment (PCC), and the physical plant department will add several LEED-certified professionals to help recognize sustainable opportunities.

“Georgia Southern is expected to grow 20 percent by 2020, with seven new construction or renovation projects on the horizon,” said Michael Dipple, associate director of physical plant. “As part of its master plan, the University is developing sustainable design guidelines, a set of standards that will be used in the design of all future buildings and renovations.”

Homayun noted, “Much of the thinking for these sustainable design guidelines will come from within the University. We will be doing more LEED-certified projects. Our goal is to have new buildings or renovations of existing buildings fit in with the LEED certification process.”

Commissioning & Green Building Solutions, CxGBS, an Atlanta commissioning and green building consulting firm that provided sustainable design/LEED consulting and green housekeeping/site management programs for the RAC, will serve in an advisory role for the sustainable design guidelines.

“Most project owners who attain LEED certification on a new project typically lose their focus on sustainability after they receive the certificate of occupancy and the LEED plaque,” said H. J. Enck, LEED-AP, CxAP, principal and founder of CxGBS. “Georgia Southern has embraced the practice of sustainable development principles on a daily basis even before their first project is certified. We have provided procedures and training to help them walk the talk, and are offering guidance to help them make sustainable practices business as usual.”

Georgia Southern has adapted CxGBS Green Operations procedures that reduce the use of chemicals in the air inside buildings as well as green site management procedures for landscaping and pest control on the outside of buildings.

Green Housekeeping Reduces Chemicals
The new RAC served as the trial building for implementation of campus-wide green housekeeping procedures, which so far has substantially reduced the number of indoor cleaning chemicals from 25 aerosol cleaners to four basic chemicals with controlled dilutions.

“We wanted to create environmentally friendly cleaning procedures, yet maintain the effectiveness of our cleaning to eliminate germs, odor, and bacteria,” said Gwen Jackson, custodial manager. “Our goal was to eliminate aerosols and as many chemicals as possible. We wiped our shelves clean and set up dispenser systems that dilute the liquid cleaners, which now include a multi-purpose cleaner, deodorizer, degreaser, and disinfectant.”

Other green housekeeping features include walk-off mats at each door, which have heavy grooves to remove dirt, saving on floor care. Green paper products are used, and antibacterial and foaming soaps are used, and soon environmentally friendly paper towel and soap dispensers will be added.

Prior to implementation of green housekeeping, the custodial staff was trained in the new procedures. Booklets were printed for janitors’ carts with color-coding for machines and bottles. The booklet provides guidelines for how often to dust, wipe down vents, wash trashcans, and other cleaning activities.

Green housekeeping is now employed in all facilities on campus, with extremely positive results. “The cost savings have been tremendous, and the new policies and procedures have made the work easier for our staff,” said Jackson. “I commend our employees for their excitement and commitment to going green.”

Green Site Management Reduces Water, Chemicals
Green site management procedures are also employed outdoors on campus.

“We have a computerized irrigation system in place at the RAC,” said Brian Hooks, landscape services manager. “It has a series of weather stations that measure all the weather data such as humidity, temperature, and rainfall, to compute the evapo-transformation. This helps determine exactly how much water plants need to be returned to a healthy state, allowing us to give them the exact amount of water they need rather than watering them for a set amount of time on certain days. This has achieved a 30 percent reduction in water use.”

Other green site management practices include the following:
•    Water runoff from the RAC is captured and collected in ponds on campus for irrigation.
•    Mow heights for grass have been raised, making lawns less susceptible to disease, heat and drought damage, and weed infestation, reducing the amount of chemicals needed.
•    Organic material such as pine cones, tree limbs, and leaves are ground up for use as mulch on campus, eliminating the need to take these materials to the landfill and reducing the need for chemical fertilizer.

“In addition, we are partnering with the city of Statesboro for delivery of reuse water to substitute for the fresh water we currently pump from our own well,” said Dipple. “Our first use will be for irrigation on athletic fields near the new RAC. As we gain experience, we will extend this reuse to filling ponds and lakes. “We’re anticipating an offset of 600,000 gallons a week for irrigation with reuse water.”

“The green culture at Georgia Southern is a source of pride for students, faculty, and the community,” he said. “In a symbolic way, the RAC has served as an environmental teaching tool, and our students are proud to have a LEED facility on campus. They recognize the environmental features — particularly the natural lighting and energy-efficient plumbing fixtures. The RAC has become the most prominent recruiting tool for our campus.”

H. J. Enck, LEED-AP, CxAP, is principal and founder of Commissioning & Green Building Solutions, Inc., (CxGBS,, an Atlanta, GA, commissioning and green building consulting firm. With more than 29 years' experience in sustainable development, engineering, construction and equipment services and maintenance, Enck has executed the commissioning process for more than $1 billion worth of construction projects.