Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 5, Elgin Community College

The foceccus of our fifth part in our series about Chicago area community colleges sustainability efforts circles back to a more urban environment – Elgin Community College (ECC). Located approximately 25 miles west of Chicago, Elgin is the seventh most populated city in the state of Illinois.

Creating a More Responsive Sustainable Community

According to Ileo N. Lott, Ed.D. Dean of Sustainability, Business, and Career Technologies, unlike other Chicago area community colleges, “The campus [ECC] does not have a master plan for sustainability, but our commitment to sustainability is reflected in ECC’s Strategic Goal #5 to ‘strengthen educational and workforce partnerships to create a more responsive and sustainable community.'”

Lott explains that partnerships to grow sustainability throughout the campus continue to be a main focus. He states that ” Globally, the focus of sustainability is to accomplish the best outcomes while maintaining and, better yet, reducing resources. We are measured by our effectiveness in reducing our resources based upon the investment we make in our educational and workforce partnerships.”

With the creation of the Business and Career Technology Center in 2010, ECC seized its commitment to sustainability. The Energy Business Management Program, which “focuses on preparing students for work as mid-level technicians in the renewable energy industry as technicians in large, commercial facilities in the area of environmental controls and computerized building automation. Many companies…are required to measure their energy management consumption…,” explains Lott.

Sustainable practices is a part of the curriculum for all career and technology programs at the College, demonstrating the importance of sustainability to its students as a best practice for most organizations today.

Showing Green On Campus

ECC's Building A.

ECC’s Building A.

Sustainability is not only a philosophy at ECC, but the campus has started showing its belief in sustainability and green practices too. The College’s Building A; which houses the biology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology and other science and medical classes; was recognized as the 2013 recipient Project of the Year by the Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO). According to an ECC press release, “It [Building A]  [received] LEED Silver certification, which underscores the college’s focus on environmental stewardship.

After the decision to incorporate sustainability, ECC became a member of the Illinois Green Economy Network, which led to hands-on opportunities for the campus to adopt sustainable practices.

For example, the … Energy Management students conducted an energy audit for light usage in the manufacturing building that led to more efficient LED bulbs being used throughout the building. Additionally, several water bottle filler stations were installed across the campus to encourage the use of refillable water bottles. Each station keeps a tally on how many plastic water bottles have been saved.”

Lott states, ” Future plans at ECC [include] to continue to make sustainability a campus and community effort. There is a campus-wide sustainability committee and, most recently, a student-led club, Student Organization for Sustainability (SOS). Additionally, other student led clubs such as the CEO club have  embraced sustainability in sponsoring of Earth Day Events and promoting the entrepreneurial mindset.”




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



Grainger’s New Data Center First LEED Certified Center

Lake Forest, Ill.-based Grainger, the broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating systems, recently announced that its new data center located in Lake Forest, “…is certified as the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] facility of this type,” as stated in a recent Grainger press release.

The new data cenGraingerter features an advanced cooling system where the energy used for cooling the facility is controlled by closely monitoring the air flow using outside air to cool the facility. Due to this feature, Grainger expects the new facility to consume up to 50 percent less energy for cooling compared to similar data centers.

According to the press release, “Data centers usually run nonstop, which means these facilities can consume up to 200 times more electricity than typical office spaces. Most of this energy is used to cool the building as temperatures from IT equipment housed in a data center can reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This Grainger data center’s air cooling design is anticipated to have a best-in-class PUE rating of 1.2 at full capacity; the industry average is 2.0.”

“Our goal is always to build the most sustainable facility possible,” said Gail Edgar, vice president of Grainger Real Estate and Facilities Services. “One of the most important components of the project was to realize significant energy savings by maintaining a low Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which measures the energy used beyond the IT load.”

According to Grainger’s Web site, the company is committed to building more buildings up to LEED standards. Grainger became the first industrial distributor to have a LEED-certified facility in 2008. Presently, the company operates 16 LEED-certified buildings in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and construction is underway for its newest facility in Toronto.

The Web site states, “By sharing best practices across facilities, almost all Grainger buildings have adapted some components of LEED certification requirements in areas such as recycling, waste disposal, lighting and cleaning. For example, the company has retrofitted 168 facilities in Canada and the United States with energy efficient lighting, decreasing annual energy consumption by an average of 15 percent per facility.”

The United States Green Building Council’s LEED program “… is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.”

Chicago Area Nature Center Going for LEED Certification

Practicing what it preaches, the Hickory Knolls Nature Center in St. Charles, Ill. is “going for the green” to become a LEED-certified building.

The Nature Center, which opens in September 2011, will not only have plenty of interactive nature exhibits and classes for children and adults, but the Center will also offer a tour of its building, which boasts many green ideas including:

  1. The entrance to the building boasts recycled materials. The hickory leaves on display at the entrance are made from recycled soda bottles.
  2. The building’s washrooms have several conservation features which include hand dryers to save paper towels and landfill waste, automatic water sensors which save water and automatic flush toilets that also reduce water usage.
  3. Windows and skylights cuts the need for excessive lighting and energy use
  4. Geothermal heating and cooling system
  5. Concrete walls were used instead of drywall or other materials to also save on resources
  6. Regulated lighting system
  7. Low VOC-carpeting
  8. Exhibits were created to be reusable and moveable
  9. A semi-permeable pavers on the west side of the parking lot, which allows rain to percolate through, decreasing run-off and pollutants in waterways.

The exhibits are even ecofriendly! All of the paints, sealants, adhesives and even wood used throughout the exhibits are low-emitting materials, thus improving the air quality throughout the building.

Outdoors, the Discovery Center is green too! The native landscaping, which surrounds the Center have been treated with low amounts of herbicides, pesticides and water. So, the plants have deeper root systems and have adapted to drought conditions. Also, by planting gardens instead of turf less air pollution will be emitted by lawn mowers. Also, according to the Center, ” The Savannah and Birding Meadow are havens for our native animals, providing food, water and shelter. Even the building is benefitting from the shade of the Oaks, cooling on a hot summer day and decreasing our energy needs!”

Water gardens are situated near the parking lots, which collect rain water and is then filtered and absorbed by the plants, decreasing run-off.  There are plants growing on the Center’s roof too! The green roof absorbs water and decreases the heat island effect. So, the need for extra cooling is decreased, thus saving energy consumption.

So, check out the Hickory Knolls Discover Center — there’s more than just meets the eye. The Center is located at 3795 Campton Hills Road in St. Charles. For more information visit or call 630-513-4399.

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.

Chicago Area Libraries Combine Green with Knowledge

Did Benjamin Franklin think when he developed the idea for the public library that the library would become a second home for many of us? In my opinion libraries have a cozy feel to them — they’re almost like a second home. All of those books and music in one place, not to mention the computers and other services a library has to offer. Who needs to go home? Over the past 25 years libraries have become more than a place to visit when you need to write that dreaded book report or state report; libraries have become the hub of information for a community. This can clearly be seen currently duing the United States’ recession. Libraries have stepped up and have assisted their patrons in developing job hunting strategies by offering seminars and databases chock full of information.

Libraries’ main focus has always been to provide information and offer knowledge to their patrons. Recently, libraries have taken that knowledge one step further and have used it gor the greater good — to go green. Of course, the most famous library that has gone green is Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center, which boasts a secret garden of its own on top of its roof, but several suburban libraries have gone one step further in the green movement.

One of the most recently added green libraries to the Chicago area is the Addison Public Library, located in Addison, Ill., which incorporates such green features as green roofs, low-emissivity (Low-E) insulated glass, flooring made out of bamboo and cork, and extensive use of natural sunlight.

Addison Public Library

Addison Public Library

Already known for its historic Frank Lloyd Wright homes, the Oak Park Public Library in Oak Park, Ill. is in the process of implementing a green roof.

Located in northwest suburban Illinois and one of the largest cities in the state, the Rakow Branch of Elgin’s Gail Borden Library will contain many eco-friendly features including a geothermal well system and natural light design. According to a recent issue of the library’s newsletter, “Library officials anticipate that the Rakow Branch will receive silver or gold LEED certification.”