Sustainability has become a big buzz word in the past decade. Many people have become excited about the topic and many at GW are already aware that this school cares about Sustainability. In fact, the George Washington University has received several awards for being a green school. It was ranked among the top 25 green campuses by College Raptor, received gold ranking from the STARS AASHE program, and has many LEED certified buildings. Specifically, there are 13 LEED certified buildings, of which two are LEED silver certified, 10 are LEED gold, and one is LEED platinum certified.
However, LEED certified buildings are just structures. What does the average George Washington student’s interaction with sustainability look like?
Many students interact with sustainability features daily without even knowing it. For example, a building can earn LEED points by including certain green features. Let's consider the Milken Institute School of Public Health. This building is the only LEED platinum certified building on GW’s campus and you may find many of its features interesting.
According to the Milken Institute's self-guided tour, Milken has some observable features that make it a green building. Features like the fact that it is walking distance from the metro, has a bicycle rental rack right outside the building, and has a green roof. However, there are features that are not as clear to spot. For example, walking in the front door, you will not see an elevator as you would in a typical building. The elevators are intentionally hidden behind the reception desk to increase the probability of using the stairs. Furthermore, there is an intentional 5 second delay when calling an elevator. This delay was inserted in order to push more people to use the stairs. Another interesting fact is that most of the materials used in the building are from the building that existed prior to Milken. That reduces solid wastes from being dumped in landfills. In addition, to encourage people to use public transportation, Milken has no parking garage and the parking spaces outside the building are limited.
Another feature of the building is the existence and placement of recycling bins right next to every trash can. This serves as a visual reminder for people to recycle their used goods. The building is also equipped with light sensors in every room. These turn on light whenever motion is detected and they also send a signal to security rooms with the room number whose light is on. This is useful to both make sure the lights are not on when there is no one in the room and for increased security in case there is a break in. Finally, every floor is equipped with lasers that shoot beams into reflectors. The way these operate is the laser shoots a beam into the reflector in a way that creates a web of laser beams on each floor. These lasers detect smoke and record the time of detection to help locate the floor where the smoke is coming from. This significantly helps the fire fighters, in the case of fire, to quickly locate the source, which consequently saves lives and building materials.
Overall, students should still remain interested and alert to the actions they can personally take to do their part in helping society become continuously more efficient. However, hopefully you realize that everyday you are interacting with features that help buildings to be more sustainable. So, even passively, you are participating in the effort to be more eco-friendly.