Community Colleges Adding Green to Community Part 2 — Harper College

So, next in my series about sustainability and Chicago area community colleges is Harper College. Located in Palatine, Harper College holds a special place in my heart and mind because Harperthis was the community college I attended after high school and before I transferred to Northeastern Illinois University. The College has grown and changed — I had difficulty finding where I was supposed to meet someone – didn’t even recognize the campus! But, that’s a good thing! And, I was also very happy to learn about the green efforts the College is making toward sustainability.
In order to move forward with its sustainability efforts, Amy Bandman was hired as Harper’s first Sustainability Coordinator, who has stated that “…the biggest sustainability challenge is community engagement – those at the school have to take ownership of being green and healthy, but it’s hard because Harper is a commuter school.”

Moving Forward

Even though community engagement may be a struggle, there have been many sustainability victories at Harper — the most significant being the drop from 2.18 million gallons of water usage to 1.85 million gallons between May 2014 and May 2014 – that’s a difference of .33 million gallons in one year.

“In just one year we [Harper College] have reduced paper towel consumption by four and a half tons just by switching to hand dryers — this has saved the college over $12,000,” explained Bandman

The College has also made progress achieving the goals set in its 2013 Climate Action Plan. In its January 15, 2015 American College & University President’s Commitment, Bandman reported that “Harper College has achieved its first target set forth in phase one of the climate action plan, achieving 5% reduction in energy use of purchased utilities compared to the base year of 2010 and 15% offset of carbon emissions from purchased utilities via renewable energy certificates.

Also, per the climate action plan, all newly constructed buildings at Harper must meet LEED Silver status.

Landscaping at the College is not untouched; Harper  has planted more native plants and now grow these plants in house in the greenhouse in peet pots, thus, reducing the waste of plastic pots. Also, vegetated swales can be seen in the north parking lot and near the new parking garage.

Harper’s Welding Technology department has even become involved in sustainability efforts. The Welding department build two new bicycle racks which hold seven bikes — these racks, which are placed in front of the new buildings promote both welding and bicycling.

According to the College, “The [welding] class will work each semester to fabricate two bike racks and Physical Plant staff will continue to install the bike racks on campus. This is a great opportunity to showcase student work on campus while helping to contribute to Harper’s green efforts. Instructor Adam Phan shares his excitement for “spotlighting our program and giving the students such a great opportunity to have a long lasting, positive impact on campus; this is really something we can all be proud of.”

Harper is also moving toward stream recycling where all items that can be recycled can be thrown in the same bin instead of having to separate items, making it easier for those on campus to participate in recycling efforts. Also, those water bottle filling stations located throughout campus have eliminated 718,000 one-use bottles, according to Bandman.


In addition to Harper’s Environmental Club, the Sustainability Department is offering a Sustainability Series with various programs. The next program is Whole Home Efficiency: Ways To Save Energy and Money on Tuesday, July 21 — free lunch will be provided. For more information about this and upcoming events check out



Chicago Area College Dorms Go Green

Now, not only can college students learn about sustainability, they can also live in green dorms. Lately many Chicago area college dormitories have decided to become more ecofriendly.

The latest green dorm belongs to North Park College located in Naperville, Ill., a far western suburb of Chicago. Set to open September 14, this new dorm boasts precast concrete walls, geothermal heat and air conditioning, and a white reflective roof. Also, the entire building is constructed of materials found in Illinois and the surrounding area.

According to a July 9, 2009 Daily Herald article, “The most impressive part of this building might be its heating and air-conditioning systems.”

Project manager Glenn Behnke explains that there is no natural gas in the building.

Instead of using a gas furnace, this facility “will be one of the largest buildings in the Midwest to be heated and cooled using a geothermal system”, according to Charlie Saville, vice president of sustainability for Sieben Energy Associates of Chicago and LEED consultant for this project.

The dorm will also have covered bike storage lot, a nearby bus stop, energy efficient lights, and recycled building materials and glues, sealants, paints, and carpets that emit little or no volatile organic compounds.

North Park is hoping for LEED certification on this project, adding to yet another LEED certified college facility in the Chicago suburbs. Judson College’s (Elgin, Ill.) new library is LEED certified.

Located in Chicago, Saint Xavier’s Arthur Rubloff Hall became Illinois’ first university building to gain LEED Gold certification in 2006. The university’s Agatha O’Brein Hall, which opened in 2008 is also Gold LEED certified.

Saint Xaviers Arthur Rubloff Hall

Saint Xavier's Arthur Rubloff Hall

According to Saint Xavier, Rubloff Hall saves $55,000 annually by consuming 53 percent less energy than other facilities at SXU [Saint Xavier]. The Building Management System… adapts to the needs of a room by measuring [carbon dioxide] and featuring a side ventilation system that allows the air to flow upward, keeping a constant stream of fresh, clean air and forcing out older air through vents located higher in the walls.”

The mechanical room at the Agatha O’Brien Hall uses the most technology to run the building efficiently based on its demand of water or electricity, allowing for the double lifespan of the machinery that maintains optimal comfort levels.

So, not only are the students who live in these college quarters smart — the buildings themselves are smart too.

LEED, Silver & Gold

It’s a common term nowadays — LEED certified, Silver LEED certified, Gold LEED certified? But, what exactly the difference between these building classifications?

LEED certification is determined on a point system and changes from year to year. In LEED 2009 (v 3) there are 100 possible base points plus extra six points for for Innovation in Design and Regional Priority. Buildings can qualify for four levels of LEED certification:

  1. Certified — 40-49 points
  2. Silver — 50-59 points
  3. Gold — 60-79 points
  4. Platinum — 80-100 points

Points have been distributed in the following ways:

  • Sustainable Sites – 26 possible points
  • Water efficiency – 10 possible points
  • Materials and resources – 14 possible points
  • Indoor environmental quality – 15 possible points
  • Innovation in design – 5 possible points
  • Regional priority – 4 possible points

There is also LEED V2.2 for new construction and major renovations for commercial buildings, which consists of 69 possible points,but can qualify for LEED, Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification.

There are also different versions of this rating system based upon specific project types:

  • LEED for New Construction: New construction and major renovations (the most commonly applied-for LEED certification)[15]
  • LEED for Existing Buildings: Existing buildings seeking LEED certification
  • LEED for Commercial Interiors: Commercial interior fitouts by tenants
  • LEED for Core and Shell: Core-and-shell projects (total building minus tenant fitouts)
  • LEED for Homes: Homes
  • LEED for Neighborhood Development: Neighborhood development
  • LEED for Schools: Recognizes the unique nature of the design and construction of K-12 schools
  • LEED for Retail: Consists of two rating systems. One is based on New Construction and Major Renovations version 2.2. The other track is based on LEED for Commercial Interiors version 2.0. (Wikipedia,

Platinum is the highest achievement for any organization and there are fewer than 100 buildings in the United States that hold this distinction. Recently, the headquarters for Novas International Inc., located St. Charles, Mo. was awarded the highest USGBC LEED certification. Novus produces animal health and nutrition products. According to an April 28, 2009 St. Louis Journal article “The new facility also features the largest array of solar panels in Missouri at 5,000 square feet, reused salvaged materials, storm water system, skylights and preferred parking for fuel-efficient vehicles.”

In 2003, the Willow School, located in Gladstone, N.J., became the first private school building in the US to earn gold LEED certification. And, the Barn, which is part of the school, gained Platinum certification in 2008. To read more about this school visit

Portland, Oregons  Avalon Hotel & Spa

Portland, Oregon's Avalon Hotel & Spa

Located in Portland, Ore., the Avalon Hotel & Spa is only one of nine other hotels in the world to achieve silver LEED certification.

“The Avalon Hotel & Spa is to be commended for achieving LEED for existing buildings certification. This facility is one that both the community and its guests can be proud of,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO, Founding Chair, USGBC

And, a recent example of a LEED certified building is San Francisco’s Orchard Garden Hotel.

No longer is it just corporate America that is going green — any building can go green — from educational institutions to high quality hotels and resorts.