LEED certification debate for the new dorm continues

By Kara Odum  ‘15Staff Writer

On Dec. 3, SAS held a LEED panel to answer student questions about the construction of the new residence hall. In attendance on the panel were Professor Denise Mitten, Dean Bekki Lee, Professor Lance Neckar, Joanne Coville CFO, Eera Babtiwale of Agency Architects, alumna and director of LEED support Megan Saffitz, and President Lori Bettison-Varga.

Debate has been ongoing since the idea was first introduced, but up until now the student community was short on information. The panel discussion was very clear on the fact that LEED certification is not financially feasible at this time, seeing as there is literally no money to build the new residence hall in the first place.

So if LEED certification isn’t an option at this time, why bother hosting a panel and discussing it? Because it is a perfect opportunity to open up a dialogue between students, staff, and faculty on the debate and to lay the groundwork now in case funding comes through to make LEED a possibility. Students in support of LEED argue that the college professes environmental sustainability but doesn’t follow through.

Some of the more vocal supporters insist that a price tag can’t be placed on a better environment. Others feel that the gains from building the new dorms to higher standards than is required in California—which by law has similar standards to LEED silver certification—will have a larger impact on the environment and will save the school money over the long run, which will justifies the present cost. Some students raised the concern that Scripps would just be paying for a label; they would prefer the money be spent elsewhere.

The first part of the discussion was facilitated by Student Body President Emily Jovais. President Bettison-Varga gave a brief history of the plans for the new residence hall, including the fundraising process. As of now the board has approved plans for a $15 million residence hall with unknown funding sources. Some possibilities include donors or Scripps taking on additional debt to fund the project.

The board is taking a holistic view of the project with consideration for other priorities including other building projects, financial aid, faculty sala

ries, and research. However, President Bettison-Varga clarified that any LEED certification would not take away from existing programs since it would be funded separately.

The cost for LEED certification comes from the registration fee, certification fee, and cost of labor from the architects. The total cost is estimated at about $500,000 for Gold level and $1.5 million for Platinum.

The potential pros of a LEED-certified building include setting the standard for sustainability, making Scripps more green, and increasing environmental benefits. Scripps has recently implemented a “green button” on its fundraising page and current trends show that donors are more likely to give to schools that are environmentally friendly.

The Sustainability Committee has been working to make the whole campus more sustainable and building a LEED Gold or Platinum building would definitely help. The spokeswoman for the architecture firm projected that quantitatively, Scripps can expect to see 20-50 percent energy savings, 40 percent savings in water efficiency, divert 50 percent of waste from landfills, and have an 18 percent decrease in illness due to air quality.

All panel members agreed that building the residence hall to a LEED gold or platinum standard should be a goal but there was a lot of hesitation on the practicality of the venture. President Bettison-Varga stated that the trouble lies in building a residence hall both to Scripps’ aesthetic standards—which includes sinks in the rooms, browsing rooms, and overall cohesiveness—and to LEED standards while staying within the budget.

There were some concerns raised over valuing the aesthetics too highly, but President Bettison-Varga urged for a more holistic, long-term view on the matter. Discussion on LEED certification will continue as Scripps goes through the fundraising process, but for now no conclusive decisions have been made.