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Davis

Davis, California

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Wheeling in a new sustainable building

Davis emanates eco-friendliness. We ride bicycles and use public transportation. We eat local foods and drink free-trade coffee. The UC Davis School of Education, which is in the planning stages of a new sustainable building, is joining the trend.

The School of Education once held classes in the Academic Surge and offices in its own building. The new building, which will be next door to the current one, will unite the the school.

And sustainability is something that the school will be actively thinking about as the building plans go forward.

“We’re going to do our best to make it a really sustainable building, but I just don’t know what factors will go into that,” said Harold Levine, the dean of the School of Education. “It’s way too early; we just started this process a few months ago.”

With preliminary drawings in the works, students are preparing for the new facilities by evaluating the recycled swivel chairs. These chairs, called Nodes, are one example of the new building’s sustainable mission.

The Node is a recycled-plastic chair for students that Eugen Dunlap, computer resource specialist at the School of Education, first saw at an all-campus sustainability meeting. It acts as a cornerstone for the sustainable building’s blueprints.

The chair is manufactured by Steelcase, the designer for most furniture on the UC Davis campus, and for about two months, an example Node has been situated in the School of Education’s current building.

“They put [the Node] in [so we could] get student feedback to see if it’s even worth it,” Dunlap said. “Sometimes you see something and you love it, but it’s not that practical.”

But the Node has a lot to love. After being on the market for about two years, it has already received many environmental recognitions. It is SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certified, level 2 certified to the BIFMA e3 sustainability standard and MBDC Cradle to Cradle certified.

“A lot of these are very high acclaims that are given to us from the industry. We’re very proud,” said Gary Reed, senior accountant manager for United Corporate Furnishings, the dealership that represents Steelcase in the Sacramento area.

According to the Product Environmental Profile, the chair is 16 percent recycled, 75 percent recyclable and is made of low-emitting materials. Though this chair is a possibility for the new building, the planning committee has yet to decide exactly how sustainable the building will be.

“The campus will want to weigh in,” Levine said. “The architects will plan it. There are different levels of LEED certification, and all of that will have to be balanced by not only just me but also the other campus authorities who will help us design the building.”

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an organization that certifies buildings, ranking their sustainability and environmental levels. The UC Davis campus already has multiple LEED-certified buildings, and the School of Education has the goal of achieving LEED-certified status as well.

The Node will cost more than the most student chairs on campus.

“I have found that typically you’re probably looking at somewhere between a 10 and 15 percent difference in cost with the recycled content,” Reed said.

Along the same lines, the new building’s level of sustainability will depend on cost. Levine also emphasized that it will be several years before the building is finished, as they’ll need to raise funds.

NAOMI NISHIHARA can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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