Sustainability Spotlight: Gators Go Green

Kyle Chambers

Gators LEED Pack in Race Towards Green Construction

In a bid to keep up with today’s changing world, the University of Florida has spent much of its energy renovating campus buildings. Many students are familiar with these ongoing changes to old construction.

However, unknown to many gators, the University of Florida uses a strict system to make sure that these improvements meet modern environmental standards.

“If a building is old and outdated and it’s wasting energy, that’s no good,” UF sophomore engineering major, Daniel Ysaguirre, said. “But LEED renovations like what they did at the Reitz and O’Connell Center make things efficient.”

What is LEED Design?

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a point-based green ranking system for buildings. “Points” are given out for environmentally friendly improvements such as water fixtures and low-flow sinks.

“LEED is all about sustainable design and making something future proof,” he said.

However, LEED is not unique to the University of Florida: the program holds a high level of prestige nationwide.

Because of the high status of LEED certification, Ysaguirre said, UF has led the charge in green building, convincing other schools to do the same.

LEEDing the way in Sustainable Design

Allison Vitt, the outreach and communications coordinator for the UF Office of Sustainability, said that UF tops other universities in the United States in several areas of LEED certification.

“We have 13 LEED-certified buildings on campus,” Vitt said. “That makes the University of Florida third in the nation for LEED certification, only behind Harvard and one other.”

Most new construction on campus is built to meet a LEED gold certification, the second highest level on a four-level bronze-to-platinum scale.

Building a Foundation for Later in Life

The University has also achieved firsts for sustainable construction, Vitt said. Sustainable design of the Heavener Football Complex allowed UF to receive Florida’s first “platinum” certification for an athletic building.

Due to its importance, the University of Florida has begun exposing students to LEED design to challenge them to consider sustainable development in their career paths,  says UF Sustainability and the Built Environment sophomore, Michael Schlien.

Schlien’s first experience with LEED was in an International Sustainability. Students were taught to consider not only real-life applications but also the sustainable construction of the very buildings they learned in.

“To me, LEED means an outlook on planning that takes energy sustainability into account,” Schlien said.

Edited by: Kaylynn Crawford and Ruby Halfacre