UC Merced has received another LEED Gold rating, as well as earned a spot on the Top Ten Green Projects from the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment for its 2009 Long Range Development Plan.
The campus’s building plans use sustainable construction materials and take advantage of open space, land use, circulation and water resources, while making various campus locations look like the surrounding areas of the Central Valley.
Buildings are LEED Certified with a Gold LEED minimum rating, meaning that they are sustainably built using energy-efficient materials. Buildings conserve by using 50% less energy in addition to reducing water use by 40%. This means a lot for the water resources here in Merced—especially in the surrounding areas of the campus—due to the fact that the campus is surrounded by vernal pool grasslands.
The purpose of having LEED Certified buildings is to both stimulate the local economy and achieve LEED Platinum Targets. LEED Platinum Targets are platinum ratings on any building that was built and designed using sustainable, energy-efficient materials. Currently, there are seven buildings on campus that have earned a LEED Gold rating.
The Classroom and Office Building—more commonly referred to as COB—maximizes the amount of light received by indoor spaces, in order to heat the inside of buildings without using electricity for indoor heating systems.
Similarly, the garage-like doors made out of double-pane “low-e” glass in the Lantern allow cooling and heating that adjust to the outside temperature. These designs using garage-like doors are effective for all types of buildings because they reduce the use of electricity and they are built out of sustainable materials.
Energy efficiency is one of the three ‘zeroes’ in UCM’s plan for 2020. The three zeroes are zero-net-energy, zero-waste, and zero-net-emissions. Everyone on campus can contribute to the three zeroes plan by simply adjusting their everyday use of resources such as water and electricity and trying to reduce the amount of trash produced in a given day.
The thermal energy storage plant on campus stores water that can later be cooled and used for different purposes. At nighttime, water is sent out through the pipes connected to the thermal plant and comes back through the pipes at a warmer temperature after taking in heat from the buildings.
The benefits of having a thermal energy storage plant include conservation of water and energy, in addition to saving money on utilities. Chilled water is stored in the plant at off-peak hours and provides a comfortable atmosphere and environment inside the buildings.
A major contributor to the three zeroes plan is the solar farm here on campus. It uses photovoltaic cells—cells which capture the sun’s energy to generate electricity—and produces up to 20% of the campus’s annual electricity needs and 60% of the peak electricity needs. The solar farm uses photovoltaic cells on 4,888 silicon-based solar panels which are the most useful way to produce electricity using the sun’s rays. The panels are able to store energy at night which can then be converted into electricity.
The 2009 Long Range Development Plan integrates passive building systems, building technologies, the central plant’s thermal storage tank, and a centralized building energy management system to make energy efficiency and conservation possible.