The Mercyhurst College Board of Trustees voted unanimously against the pursuit of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for Frances Warde Hall during their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 29.
According to the motion passed by the Board of Trustees, “The $85,000 needed to embark on Phase II in LEED certification … would be better spent to support future green initiatives on campus.”
Rather than spend money on LEED certification, which proves the sustainability of the building without necessarily improving it, the Board developed alternative plans for the money.
These plans include the development of a solar composter, solar and wind energy sources for the Mercyhurst West County campus or a project to convert fat and oil used in the cafeteria into biodiesel fuel.
The board particularly favor the idea of building a green roof on Zurn Hall. The building needs to replace one roof in the near future, and the construction of a green roof would both boost Mercyhurst’s environmental efforts and possibly provide research material for the biology department.
LEED certification, which rates how ‘green’ a building is according to third-party commissioners, provides proof that a building has been designed to “increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts,” as reported by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
State and local governments may provide incentives as well, but for the most part, certification acts as a status symbol or, as Executive Vice President for Administration Thomas Billingsley said, “a badge to carry.”
Warde Hall may be eligible for LEED certification. Buehler & Associates, Inc., who designed the student housing project with its sustainability in mind and later donated the $12,400 fee to the college, achieved 26 out of 69 possible credits toward certification, meaning that Mercyhurst achieved the minimum number of credits required for certification.
The Board of Trustees ruled against certification because of the cost of the application process. Depending on commissioning fees, the estimated total LEED cost could amount to over $85,000.
Furthermore, the subjective process does not guarantee certification despite the fact that the college met minimal requirements.
“While the (LEED) certification would have been a good public relations move for the school’s reputation as a green campus, it’s true that the money can be put to better uses that the school has proposed,” Green Team Student President senior Zoey Alderman-Tuttle said.
“Working on other green projects is good,” freshman Sacha Chadwick said, “but having that LEED certification shows that the first project is complete.”
Amid diverse student sentiments, the Board of Trustees released this statement: “The committee is satisfied that the college, architects, developer and committee practiced due diligence to produce a sustainable building on the Mercyhurst campus in line with the core values of the college. No memorialization of the effort is needed.”