Yale officials unaware of green committee

Students concerned about the environmental sustainability of the two new residential colleges now have a forum for discussion, although University administrators said they were previously unaware of the committee’s formation.

The Yale College Council Executive Board and the Yale Student Environmental Coalition unveiled plans to organize a New Residential Colleges Committee for Green Design early Monday morning. The committee hopes to communicate student opinion regarding environmental considerations to the architects as the planning of the two new colleges unfolds, said committee co-chair and STEP member Cornelia Twining ’11.

But members of the administration, including Provost Peter Salovey and Dean for Physical Resources and Planning John Meeske ’74, as well as Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, dean of the School of Architecture, had not heard of the committee before the announcement Monday morning.

“I know nothing about the student committee but welcome the opportunity to discuss the colleges at the appropriate time,” Stern said in an e-mail.

The leaders of the YCC and YSEC and the new committee’s co-chairs will select members shortly after the Dec. 5 application deadline and will begin meeting during reading week, YCC representative and co-chair Yaron Schwartz ’11 said.

Committee leaders are optimistic that student voices will be heard on the issue even though the organizers did not inform the administration about the committee.

“Students really care about these issues,” Schwartz said. “I would hope that the administration would be receptive.”

He added that the interests of the committee’s members will determine the type of recommendations made.

“It obviously depends on who applies and how involved they want to get,” said committee co-chair and STEP member Lily Twining ’11. “It would be great if we could get some architecture majors who really know a lot about green design.”

Yale construction typically seeks a rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s Green Building Rating System, a widely accepted third-party evaluation of a building’s green capabilities. The LEED ratings, created in the mid-1990s, are a way to evaluate the environmental impact of buildings based on energy-use materials used during construction. Buildings can be rated as certified, silver, gold or platinum, and Yale has committed to achieve at least a LEED silver rating on all new buildings.

Twining and Schwartz said YSEC is hopeful the architects will aim for a ranking of platinum.

“What the University and we agree on is that the project be designed to achieve the highest appropriate LEED rating,” said Stern in an e-mail, adding that a specific target rating has not yet been decided upon for the new colleges.

Twining mentioned that one area where student input could be particularly helpful is detailing ways in which sustainability initiatives in existing colleges can be improved upon in the new buildings.

“The architects can think of all these things to make the building green, but if the students are living in it and doing the classic turn up your heat and open your windows thing … that’s obviously not helpful to sustainability,” Twining said.

Although he is unfamiliar with the current status of the architectural plans, Meeske said, he thinks there is room for student opinion on these matters.

“We all want these buildings to be as environmentally sensitive as possible,” said Meeske. “I would think that the students are going to offer suggestions that are useful to think about.”

The new colleges are set to open in 2013. They are estimated to cost as much as $600 million and will increase the student body by approximately 15 percent, to around 6,000 students.

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