Sustainability grade improves to B+

Brian Karalunas

The 2010 College Sustainability Report Card awarded Villanova University a B+ overall for its commitment to environmental sustainability, up from a C in 2008 and a B in 2009, making Villanova one of only 63 out of the 332 American and Canadian colleges in the study to earn a mark of a B+ or higher.

The overall grade is a composite based on grades in several subcategories. Villanova received As in administration, food and recycling, investment priorities and shareholder engagement, Bs in climate change and energy, student involvement and endowment transparency and Cs in green building and transportation.

The University’s movement toward climate neutrality is ongoing and multifaceted, but positive steps have been taken.

These are reflected in notable improvements in the grades received since 2008 that include shareholder engagement up from a D, investment priorities up from a C, and endowment transparency up from an F.

The University’s improved marks since 2008, Villanova’s first year participating in the Report Card, correspond with the formation of the Villanova President’s Climate Commitment Core Team.

The committee was assembled to assist the University in upholding a promise made in 2007, when University President Rev. Peter Donahue, O.S.A., signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment.

“We’re moving forward,” said John Olson, chair of the Villanova President’s Climate Commitment Core Team. “It is a fair bit of work to collect the data but we are getting to the point where we know more about what steps need to be taken.”

Olson cited the Greenhouse Gas Emissions inventory and the Transportation Survey given to members of the Villanova community last year as particularly important initial steps in fulfilling the PCC.

In the University’s most recent Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, the Committee found that transportation, including University-sanctioned travel, and commuter travel to and from school accounts for a significant portion of the University’s 2009 preliminary emissions estimate of 71,519 metric tons.

“I am more and more convinced that this is something we have to work on because of the high contribution of emissions associated with transportation,” Olson said.

Olson also anticipates that Villanova’s C grade in the green building category will improve.

The Report Card factors Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, a third-party system that verifies a building was constructed using environmentally sustainable strategies, into the assigned grade.

Villanova is still waiting for certification on the School of Law, which was built in accordance with LEED-Silver specifications.

Driscoll Hall recently received LEED-Gold Certification, making it the first LEED-certified building on campus.

Fedigan Hall also recently underwent a “green” renovation. Geothermal wells now supply most of the hall’s energy and motion sensor lights and sinks replaced outdated models.

Low-flow shower heads were installed with mechanical timers and rain gardens were constructed on the roof.

Walkways were built with pervious concrete to limit storm water, and new furniture was made from recycled materials.

Ninety percent of the construction waste from the project was recycled.

In the month of September alone, Fedigan Hall used 31,500 gallons less water than before the renovations, according to Facilities Management Associate Vice President Robert Morro.

Sheehan and Sullivan Hall are next in line for green renovations on campus, according to Morro.

These residence halls will be out of commission for the next two summers, although they will remain open during the school year.

Since the President’s Climate Commitment was signed, all construction projects aim to be LEED-Silver certified.The University has made no firm decision as to the methodology of sustainability that will be utilized.

“Each situation is different, and we try to do what is best for the University,” Morro said.

Villanova’s score on the College Sustainability Report Card is a key indicator of its environmental impact, because it is the “only independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.”

According to its Web site, the Report Card’s aim is to enable schools to adopt more effective sustainable policies through the exchange of experiences and ideas among one another.

The highest grade attained by any school this year was an A-, which was received by 26 schools in the report.

In addition to progress already made towards climate neutrality, Villanova has a variety of long-term plans for improvements. St. Rita’s, Austin, Corr, Tolentine and Alumni halls are scheduled to be renovated over the next six years, according to Morro.

The University ultimately intends to move its construction efforts across the street to the Main Campus parking lots.

“We have a need for more dorm space,” Morro said. “We don’t have a lot more buildable land except on Lancaster Avenue.”

Grass would be planted to surround the new buildings, providing both aesthetic value and reducing storm water runoff, according to Morro.

The new construction would also include retail stores to blend in with Lancaster Avenue.

“I would like to continue on the path to achieving climate neutrality and furthering sustainability in general,” Olson said. “The challenge ahead will be putting together a cogent plan that has achievable targets and the means to implement them. I have no reason to doubt the commitment of the President or the people in facilities. It will get done.”