• Leila Sulentic

Proposal to the Administration: What Environmental Features UHS Students Want the New Campus to Have

Updated: May 25, 2020

I drafted this proposal to my school, San Francisco University High School's, administration detailing what environmental features students believe are most important that the new California Street campus building have. I used students' responses to a survey asking how important various environmental construction and building features such as onsite solar generation and using environmentally certified construction materials were to them in the creation of this proposal. Read on to find out about the results of this survey, and what requests we, as a student body, are asking that the administration fulfill in the construction of this new campus building.


Dear Administration,


I am aware that plans for the construction of a new University High School Campus on California street are currently being formulated. As part of my independent study in renewable energy and energy efficiency this semester, I choose to do some research into LEED certification as I can recall Julia mentioning that she has hopes of acquiring LEED gold certification for this new California campus building.


In order for this construction project to get LEED certified, the administration would need to pay the Building Design and Construction $1200 Registration fee, $4000 Precertification fee, and Combined Certification Review $0.057 per sq/ft costs. Even though several thousand may seem like a large number for LEED certification, it isn’t much compared to the hundreds of thousands we spend each year on electric, gas, and water bills for our school campuses, and we would no doubt make up these initial costs in a few years from having a more energy efficient building likely with on-site solar generation, a greywater system, and other mechanisms and systems to reduce electric, gas, and water bills. Most importantly, obtaining LEED Gold certification would greatly reduce the building's environmental and health impacts and prove UHS’s commitment to the environment and sustainability. Therefore, it is my hope that despite these initial large up-front costs, the administration will look to the long-term savings and environmental benefits of LEED certification and proceed with the process.


I have looked into a handful of the over four hundred and seventy BD+C credit options for which the campus construction project could obtain points to go towards its LEED Gold certification (requiring between 60 and 79 points.) Some of the credentials should be quite easy to fulfill such as the Access to Quality Transit credential (3-5 points) solely because of the campus’s close proximity to multiple bus routes and stops and the Daylight and Views credential (1-3 points) that simply requires more windows allowing in natural light be incorporated into the building’s construction. However, the majority of the credentials are far more difficult to achieve, and the administration will need to make many tough decisions as to which credentials to pursue and which not to pursue.


I believe it is incredibly important that UHS students’ environmental ideas and hopes be reflected in the construction of this new campus so I decided to create a survey asking them about which environmental features they believe are most important be included in the construction of this new California Street Campus. Because there are far too many LEED credentials to list in the survey, I instead choose to ask about more broad environmental features that could earn multiple LEED credentials. I sent this survey out multiple times and was able to collect 139 responses, about one third of the student body. Below are the results from this survey:

“I believe it is incredibly important that UHS students' environmental ideas and hopes be reflected in the construction of this new campus.”

On-Site Solar Generation

Do not want: 2.4%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 21.4%

I would like/is important to me: 76.2%


Entirely Electric Building, no gas lines (this means electric stoves, space heating, and water heating)

Do not want: 10.3%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 41%

I would like/is important to me: 48.7%


100% Renewably Sourced Electricity (generated from wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and/or biomass energy)

Do not want: 2.6%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 28.2%

I would like/is important to me: 69.2%


Green Roof and/or Green Space for native plant species

Do not want: 7.5%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 12.5%

I would like/is important to me: 80%


Water capture system for rainwater and water recycle/reuse system (such as a greywater system)

Do not want: 7.9%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 34.2%

I would like/is important to me: 57.9%


Using Environmentally Certified Materials for Construction

Do not want: 2.6%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 36.9%

I would like/is important to me: 60.5%


Individual Lighting Controls in rooms, dimmers on lights, and motion detector lights for some rooms (to reduce energy use on campus)

Do not want: 7.9%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 21.05%

I would like/is important to me: 71.05%


Individual Heating Controls in rooms rather than a centralized heating system with one control for many rooms (to reduce energy use on campus)

Do not want: 2.6%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 30.8%

I would like/is important to me: 66.6%


Cleaner Construction- reducing greenhouse gas emissions generated by construction + reusing/recycling waste materials rather than shipping them to landfills and incineration plants

Do not want: 7.5%

No preference/not particularly important to me: 30%

I would like/is important to me: 62.5%


From these survey results, it is obvious that UHS students think it is important that the new California campus be an environmentally-conscious and sustainable building with every category/feature gathering a majority “I would like/is important to me” votes except for category two: the building being entirely electric with no gas lines. Having a green roof/green space with native plant species and having on-sight solar generation seem to be the most important and agreed upon environmental features, garnering 80% and 76.2% for “I would like/is important to me.” 100% renewably sourced electricity and individual lighting controls, automatic lights, & dimmers were close behind, both gathering about 70% for “I would like/is important to me.” Even categories with fewer “I would like/is important to me” votes still had very little opposition; an entirely electric building with no gas lines having the most “I do not want” votes, about 10%.


It is my hope that the administration will take seriously the results of this survey and the apparent wishes of the UHS student body for the construction of an environmental and sustainable California street campus. I hope that the environmental features/categories listed in this survey will be taken into serious consideration and at least some of them implemented in the construction of our new campus, especially the most popular features amongst students: green roof/green space for native plants, on-site solar generation, 100% renewably sourced electricity, and automatic lights, dimmers, and lighting controls. UHS is a leading bay area school in so many ways— equity, awareness, athletics, arts, and, of course, academics— and I see no reason for why we cannot be a leading school in sustainability and environmental awareness and action as well. Constructing this new campus in a sustainable fashion to have a reduced environmental impact and obtain LEED gold certification will demonstrate UHS’s commitment to the environment and sustainability and will mark our school as a leader in environmental awareness, sustainability, education, and action in the Bay Area.


I look forward to working with the administration in the future to ensure student’s environmental wishes are incorporated in the design, planning, and construction of our new school campus.


Sincerely,

Leila Sulentic (on behalf of the UHS student body)

Class of 2021

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