Congratulations to Sam Rivers for getting his Op-Ed published in the Diamondback. Sam is a new member of the University of Maryland Student group UMD for Clean Energy, and he stepped right in by writing a column to the student newspaper about the need for the massive East Campus redevelopment project to be an ambitious green development. Back when I was Campaign Director of the group as a senior last spring, we organized a successful event that put pressure on the university to stipulate in its RFP (request for proposal) that sustainable development was a top priority, and had to be one for any prospective developer. Some members of the group met with The Cordish Companies’(the selected developer) development director and their design team last month to discuss students demands for a cutting edge green development, and listen to what the design team was planning.
Now with the developer’s first public forum set for tomorrow, the group is looking to generate student and community support for rebuilding downtown College Park into a sustainable community that others can look to. Below is Sam’s column discussing East Campus and this forum.
Guest column: Building a green campus
Last Monday, I attended my first UMD for Clean Energy meeting. The group’s purpose is to advocate for sustainability on and around the campus. As an environmental science and policy major, I had been wanting to check it out.
Discussion focused on East Campus, a proposed development to be built across Route 1 by the university in partnership with The Cordish Companies. To my surprise, I learned the development is not just one new dorm but an entire community spanning from Fraternity Row to Paint Branch Parkway — an area about six times the size of McKeldin Mall. This vast expanse will include student housing, restaurants and retail space. Furthermore, completing the project will require ripping out multiple existing buildings.
In 2009, this university unveiled a Climate Action Plan, a document that commits the university to carbon neutrality by 2050. East Campus will be included in the university’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and the East Campus buildings will last for decades. To have any hope of achieving the 2050 goal, the East Campus community must be built with sustainability in mind.
What would the university and The Cordish Companies have to do to build sustainably? To begin, East Campus should have walking and biking paths and must be connected to the rest of the campus by quick and reliable bus routes. There should be sufficient green space for rainwater to sink into the soil so that runoff does not pollute waterways.
Constructing rooftop gardens and building paths with water-permeable pavement could be important components of this more natural stormwater management system. Most importantly, buildings must be constructed with sustainable materials and be energy efficient. The university currently requires new buildings to earn a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design Silver certification — the third highest ranking in a commonly accepted ranking system for green construction. But building to LEED Gold standards would affirm the university as a nationwide leader in sustainable development and move us one step closer to carbon neutrality.
The campus’s Climate Action Plan requires reducing waste and pushing the envelope on energy efficiency. But this will not happen without student involvement. So here’s where you come in: Tomorrow there will be a forum in Ritchie Coliseum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the East Campus project will be put up for public commentary. The Coliseum is easily accessible by taking the Shuttle-UM Blue route bus or crossing Route 1 at The Dairy. The more people who come to ask questions about this development’s environmental impact, the more seriously sustainability will factor into construction. You can also sign the petition for a greener East Campus at http://www.umdforcleanenergy.org. Maps of the proposed site, a flyer for the forum, East Campus’ history and more can be found at http://www.eastcampus.umd.edu.
Sam Rivers is a freshman environmental science and policy major. He can be reached at brivers at umd dot edu.