North Lake College, one of seven colleges in the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), will implement the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Silver Certification Level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) construction practices into the design of its new Construction Sciences Building, for which they broke ground last July. LEED ratings include certification in eight categories: location and transportation; sustainable landscaping; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; innovation; and regional priority. The project is on an accelerated schedule and anticipated to take about one year.
As the most widely used green building rating system in the world, LEED is a sought-after goal for many sustainably conscious entities. “LEED certification is important to us,” Slejko says. The college already has three LEED certified buildings, including the Silver Certified Science Building expansion. Slejko believes the new building project will further propel North Lake’s status as a leader in the community when it comes to sustainability.
North Lake worked with The Beck Group architectural firm to manage sustainable design. Through Beck, Slejko learned about the WELL Building Standard, also issued through USGBC. While LEED is about implementing green practices into the construction, WELL focuses on the health and vitality of the people that live and work in the building through exercise facilities, smart food choices, a smoke-free environment and day lighting. North Lake College couldn’t pursue both LEED and WELL due to costs, but WELL is on Slejko’s radar for future projects.
Slejko observes that people have different ideas of what sustainability means and how it is interpreted. Environmentally sound practices originally focused on being ‘green’ but have evolved over the past decade to include aspects such as social justice. “When that term ‘sustainability’ started getting thrown around, the first layer of education and awareness was that it’s more than just being green,” she says.
Several of North Lake’s goals and accomplishments go beyond their pioneering principles of the triple bottom line—environmental, economic and social goals. Slejko refers to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending poverty and hunger; quality education; climate action; peace and justice; and more. “That’s a great example of how aspects of sustainability all tie to one another,” she notes. “Social sustainability, to me, is the biggest piece of this right now at the college, and the most evolving.”
Slejko is a signatory to the national Climate Leadership Commitment, transforming the college as a model for carbon reduction and community resilience. Making this commitment was a natural next step toward continuing environmentally sound practices that the college had already pioneered.
“We’ve been working with our facilities department to reduce utility expenses through multiple lighting projects. The lake in back of the campus is fed with rainwater and recycled water, which is used for irrigation,” she explains. “Our faculty is now used to temperature controls; it was an adjustment for people to be told that we are going to control their thermostats for them. But now everyone is used to it.”
Recycling has always been a large component to North Lake’s sustainability measures. The college has received 10 awards for recycling leadership combined, from RecycleMania, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Keep America Beautiful. “Recycling is a great place to start. We also turned a corner between recycling and waste minimization by encouraging people to not use plastics to start with. It’s one thing to recycle and say, ‘Look at all the stuff we’re recycling,’ which is great, but the next step is to focus on not creating waste in the first place.” North Lake also considers the environmental practices of vendors they do business with.
North Lake incorporates sustainability into the curriculum. The majority of the faculty collaborated to create 80 courses in 25 disciplines that incorporate sustainability topics. While there is currently no sustainability course or degree, students can achieve a green diploma with special recognition and a green SAGE Scholars Honors Cord at graduation. Slejko says the school hopes to offer a course or degree program in sustainability in the future.
North Lake has several partners in its sustainable goals, including Keep Irving Beautiful. Slejko says they’ve also received guidance from the city of Coppell for their impressive work with community gardens concepts. “That all merges into the sustainability space in terms of economic and social sustainability. As a college, we are in the business of social sustainability through taking care of communities and bringing people out of poverty.”
North Lake College is located at 5001 N. MacArthur Blvd., in Irving. For more information, call 972-273-3000 or visit NorthLakeCollege.edu.
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