Last night, UMD for Clean Energy held its major event of the semester, Making East Campus a Beast Campus, and it rocked! I counted 70+ students, College Park civic activists, half the College Park City Council, the Mayor, and Vice President for Admin Affairs for the university, Ann Wylie. At this event, we called for the university to make it’s upcoming $900 million East Campus development a model for universities across the country.
I personally got to speak about the need for the buildings to be carbon neutral. It was great to get a discussion going between students, politicians, experts, and university administrators about the largest investment in our college town in several decades. After the event, students, residents and members of the City Council talked to myself and other members of the group, fired up about making sure that our growth is truly green. Below is the front page Diamondback article on the event. We’ve already pushed into the blogs (#1, #2, #3), opinion section of our newspaper, created a new website page for how citizens can influence the development, and a video from UMD students explaining why we need to build green. We even spread the event info via Twitter! We’re expecting a big hit from Maryland’s Prince Georges Gazette this Thursday. **Update** : Here it is
EAST BY ECO-FRIENDLY
Students aim to make campus’ major development greener
While the East Campus development plan boasts a fancy movie theaters and restaurants, there’s one thing UMD for Clean Energy would like to see it become — beastly.
UMD for Clean Energy held a panel in the Stamp Student Union last night as part of their “Making East Campus a Beast Campus” project. A group of experts discussed how changing East Campus for the greener would stand to benefit the university. About 60 students attended the discussion and provided feedback and suggestions on how to improve plans for the development, which was disrupted last year when the main developer pulled out of the project.
The panel consisted of Tom Liebel, the associate principal architect at Marks, Thomas Architects — a firm that specializes in sustainable building — James Foster, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society, and Ralph Bennett, director of Purple Line Now. The panel did not include any representatives from any potential East Campus tenants or prospective developers, who would be responsible for covering the high costs of eco-friendly technology.
“The most important thing is to come out of this starting a better dialogue between students, the administration and the city about the project,” said senior sociology major Laura Calabrese, UMD for Clean Energy’s organizational director. “The project is a mystery to the student body and they have had no chance to weigh in. They don’t have a good idea of what the university is doing.”
Vice President for Administrative Affairs Ann Wylie attended the meeting. During the question-and-answer session, she pledged the development process would be transparent, and the development itself as green as possible.
The vast majority of attendees were students, many of whom UMD for Clean Energy officials said were unaffiliated with eco-action groups. Participants were encouraged to discuss the viability of the environmental options the group is asking the administration to consider.
“I am interested in what’s going on,” sophomore plant sciences major Caroline Brodo said. “Students are the majority here, and they’re going to be the ones served by the development, so we should be aware of what’s going on.”
The group has already developed a general platform of what they want to see, including carbon-neutral buildings, businesses that cater to students and fewer parking lots.
“We need building standards that are going to stay true to the university’s Climate Action Plan,” group campaign coordinator and Diamondback columnist Matt Dernoga said in reference to the university’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. “That plan was for the current school, now we’re adding 30 acres. The buildings are going to need to be very, very green to be anywhere close to carbon-neutral.”
The East Campus development will be inherently more sustainable than previous university projects that were built on forested areas because it can reuse pre-existing materials and is a more efficient use of land, Liebel said.
UMD for Clean Energy members also emphasized the importance of having locally owned businesses that would appeal to students, such as a grocery store within walking distance. If the local population is targeted, they said, fewer people from outside College Park will visit, and there will be less traffic. With fewer people driving in, the focus can be on alternative transportation.
“There needs to be businesses that meet the needs of the local community, that students will want to go to and that will be affordable,” Calabrese said. “The point of smart growth is to be acceptable to the community and not the corporation. It should be what people want, not just for the sake of having something cool-looking.”
Other environmental concerns, such as runoff from buildings contaminating the Anacostia River, were brought up, although diverting the excess waste could prove challenging. Calabrese said the environmental importance of waste management should not be “stifled by the bureaucracy” associated with the development process.
“Whatever happens on land ends up in the river,” Foster said, while showing pictures of trash heaps collected in river beds and broken sewage pipes leaking raw waste directly into the river. “The Anacostia is an urban river, and it’s going to take urban warfare to clean it up. We’ve got to take it and hold it down.”