The Dernogalizer

November 29, 2010

Column: Building a green campus

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.

UMD for Clean Energy at the Cordish Companies Headquarters

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 Maps of the proposed site, a flyer for the forum, East Campus’ history and more can be found at

Sam Rivers is a freshman environmental science and policy major. He can be reached at brivers at umd dot edu.

April 6, 2010

A Beast Event for Greening East Campus

Photo: Charlie Deboyace, Diamondback

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


Students aim to make campus’ major development greener

By Dana Cetrone and Amy Hemmati

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.”,

March 30, 2010

UMD for Clean Energy: Make East Campus a Beast Campus

We’ve already been asked several times where that title came from.  Consider us poetic.  Here at the University of Maryland, UMD for Clean Energy is organizing a major event on green development practices next Monday, April 5th.  Check out the background from our website on why we’re organizing.  Below is one of two blog hits we just received thanks to Rachel Hare, one of our members.  There’s also an op-ed I have out in our campus newspaper today about why we need to go all out on greening the East Campus development.  If you have friends in Maryland, let them know about this event! (more…)

February 5, 2010

UMD for Clean Energy’s Column “A Chance to Lead”

UMD for Clean Energy’s Media Director Lisa Piccinini has an op-ed in the Diamondback today about our group’s plans for the semester.  Enjoy!

Guest column: A chance to lead

By Lisa Piccinini

With the news the Wooded Hillock may be saved from development, the campus is abound with positive attitudes — thinking maybe, just maybe, the university can truly be receptive to environmental concerns. This past September, the adoption of the university’s Climate Action Plan, a plan required by the American Colleges and University Presidents Climate Commitment that university President Dan Mote signed, signaled we may be on the right track.

This momentum has also spread into College Park. Last semester, working with District 1 Councilman Patrick Wojahn, activists from the student group UMD for Clean Energy vetted the idea of an energy efficiency loan fund to the College Park city council.  The loan fund would create a pool of money that could be loaned out at a low interest rate to finance energy efficiency upgrades and home improvements. Borrowers could then repay the loan fund with their energy savings and eventually reap savings after the loan has been paid back.

UMD for Clean Energy has already met this semester with representatives in Annapolis with regard to changing a state law to make establishing this fund legal for municipalities and hopes to push forward with an energy efficiency loan fund for College Park.

The loan fund was one of many ideas UMD for Clean Energy pushed in last fall’s city council elections. In our ongoing “Green for College Park” campaign, we plan to continue pushing both the city and the university to adopt policies and make decisions that realize our vision of a prosperous sustainable future that arrives sooner than expected. We certainly weren’t the first.

Other communities are surging ahead. A new “green street” in Edmonston is set to showcase environmental responsibility through plans for a native tree canopy, use of recycled materials, and bioretention and filtration systems to manage stormwater runoff. The 9,100-acre community of St. Charles is another example of forward-thinking development in the state, with developers looking to double the community’s size while reducing its carbon footprint through green design, creating thousands of green jobs in the process.

So what’s next in store for College Park? UMD for Clean Energy students have made their voices heard on issues such as the energy efficiency loan fund, which will affect the whole city. But even in our campus bubble, the chance to encourage a sustainable future is great. The university is reevaluating plans for a 38-acre East Campus redevelopment. Will it reflect the same low sustainable development standards like Route 1? Or will it look more like St. Charles? Will we lead, or will we follow?

As of now, those questions will be answered behind closed doors by university officials. But as College Park falls to the back of the line, perhaps the doors should be opened and students should be given an opportunity to throw in their two cents as well.

We’re looking forward to doing that this semester. You can follow our efforts at or join our meetings each Monday at 7 p.m. in the Jimenez Room in Stamp Student Union.

Lisa Piccinini is the media director for the student group UMD for Clean Energy. She can be reached at lpiccinini88 at gmail dot com.

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