BC leads the way in sustainability on college campuses

For the first time, Bellevue College has opened their campus to a new building. It is a 13,300 square foot complex, and it has already raised the bar for environmental sustainability on college campuses nation-wide. The design of Student Housing is spacious and peaceful, offering views of the Seattle skyline and Olympic Mountains. The courtyard is full of indigenous plants, which also assist in solving the water runoff issue.

“The brand new Student Housing is the most sustainable building on campus,” confirmed Amber Nicholson, the Director of Sustainability at Bellevue College. The U.S. Green Building Council certainly agrees. Their rating system LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Utilizing LEED for green building certifications, structures can receive either silver, gold or platinum. With Bellevue College’s aggressive approach to environmental sustainability, Student Housing meets the LEED Platinum certification. This certification, which is an internationally recognized green building standard, is a rare, highly prestigious credential for student housing to receive.

Besides the structure, Bellevue College also incorporated the surrounding area into their sustainability work. Knowing that stormwater runoff is a critical issue on campus, rain gardens and bioswales are placed outside of Housing where students can see the project’s effects first hand. This project is funded by the Student Environmental Sustainability Fee. The rain gardens and bioswales are designed to absorb water and filter any pollutants. The water then moves to the soccer field detention. This reduces the impact of water runoff on the construction site of the Student Housing building. Artwork of Langston Hughes’s rain poem is displayed on the steps to compliment the courtyard.

Additionally, new bike racks have also been installed on the first and fourth floors of the parking garage, which assists in offering alternative transportation. There are 66 bright blue bike racks, and a Fix It station is provided for students to repair their bicycles. These bike racks help students practice how to load their bike on a bus, encouraging more sustainable modes of transportation.
The floors and carpets inside Student Housing are made with recycled materials that are easily maintained and able to be recycled at the end of their life cycle. “The metal sliding on the exterior of the building and the building insulation also contain recycled content” architect Jason Bentley informed. The interior of the various student lounges, and each individual Housing unit, are lined with natural, clean and minimalist color schemes. Each Housing unit offers an abundance of natural light and continues to be illuminated with efficient LED lighting. Heat pumps that adequately supply each unit with hot water are “the most innovative mechanical systems in the building. In fact, they are over three times more efficient than the most efficient gas boiler!” Bentley continued. Also, inside each Student Housing unit there are trash, recycling and compost bins provided free of charge to “engage students to reduce the amount of recyclable or compostable material going into landfill” Nicholson ensured. Because of this, Bellevue College Student Housing meets the strict VOC – Volatile Organic Compounds – standards, as well as FloorScore, Green Label Plus and Greenguard standards for products being used inside Student Housing.

“The Student Housing building marks Bellevue College’s third LEED certified building, and the first Platinum building,” Nicholson wrote. Not only does this building meet LEED Platinum certification, but also educates residents and non-residents. Nicholson added that the building is acting as sort of an “experimental learning tool, where students can interact with the features that reduce energy and water consumption, use renewable and recyclable materials and encourage alternative forms of transportation.” As the most environmentally sustainable building on campus, Student Housing sets the standard for future sustainability development and education on college campuses for years to come.