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Saturday, September 30, 2023


STAFF EDITORIAL: Grade not reflective of University’s green efforts

UH received a C- on the annual College Sustainability Report Card, but we’re skeptical as to how accurate that grade is.

The Sustainable Endowments Institute, which conducts the report, is somewhat vague about its grading policies in its methods overview. It states "each school earned numerical points in proportion to its policies and practices for each indicator," but practices don’t seem to be counting as much as policies.

UH received a C in the Green Building section. The report card stated "the university’s sustainable design guidelines require that projects take sustainability into consideration to the maximum extent possible. The Calhoun Lofts Residence Complex is being designed and constructed according to LEED standards, and the Cemo Hall Classroom Building will be LEED Silver-certified. Major renovation projects are being designed to LEED standards, as well."

Rice University, on the other hand, received an A in the category because "new construction will be designed with environmentally friendly features in mind, and Rice’s sustainable facilities policy mandates that all future construction be LEED-certified. Duncan College will be Rice’s first LEED Gold building. In September 2007, Rice deconstructed three buildings. Many ongoing campus construction projects recycle over 75 percent of waste materials."

Despite not having a set policy, large construction projects on the horizon at UH will meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

UH Director of Plant Operations Dave Irvin said he was "surprised at the grade," and we can understand why. UH appears to be making good on its sustainability initiatives and was doing so before the pressure of a grade came into the picture.

When UH appeared in the report for the first time last year, receiving a D, Irvin had similar feelings. The Daily Cougar reported April 17 in its Green Guide that Irvin said the "report was almost entirely incorrect" and that no University officials were contacted to confirm information.

The intention of the report card is good and serves as a reminder to schools to focus more on green initiatives, but we don’t feel a school should form its policies and procedures around it.

UH has created a Sustainability Task Force to better document efforts and develop a "strategic approach" to sustainability. While improvements should certainly be made, such as more recycling efforts on campus, we think UH is on the right track and is wise to become more educated in sustainability before implementing policies. We hope those policies come to fruition, but are pleased that when they do they will be founded on sound research and not in response to a grade.

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