Highlands Honored for Sustainable Building Practices

New Residence Hall

New Mexico Highlands newest residence hall, which  opened in 2009, was the first college dormitory in the state to be awarded LEED silver certification.

Las Vegas, N.M — New Mexico Highlands University is the only university in the state to be honored for sustainable building practices in New Mexico Business Weekly’s first Sustainable Business Summit.

The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce is also presenting the July 26 summit.  Highlands is being recognized in the sustainable building category.

“Our honorees for the Sustainable Business Summit awards approach and demonstrate sustainability in a variety of ways,” said Rachel Sams, associate editor for New Mexico Business Weekly. “All help to preserve the land, air, water and ways of life that make New Mexico a desirable place to live and work.

“Our judges were impressed with Highlands University’s commitment to making its facilities more sustainable,” Sams said.

In 2007, Highlands University initiated a campus-wide Sustainability Program under the direction of Marisol Greene, facilities and planning director.

“In the last five years, we have emphasized sustainable design and standards in all our capital projects, renovations and operations,” Greene said. “Our vision is to manage critical aspects of having an attractive, sustainable campus.”

Greene said that even though square footage has increased on campus, since 2009 green practices have resulted in a 44 percent decrease in water use, 29 percent decrease in electricity use, and 29 percent decrease in gas use.

“Sustainability goes beyond environmental responsibility,” Greene said. “Sustainability is also important because it makes economic sense by using resources more efficiently. We have seen significant cost savings in utilities. In essence, it’s more costly in the long run not to implement green practices.”

Highlands University President Jim Fries said: “Sustainability is a great example of both doing the right thing and doing things right, all at the same time.  I couldn’t be prouder of Marisol’s leadership and the work of our entire facilities staff for the improvements to the functionality, aesthetics, and efficiency of the campus that resulted in this recognition.”

One of the most visible examples of sustainability on campus is the university’s buildings. Greene said all new construction and remodels on campus are being done to LEED standards to reduce environmental impact and save energy.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a high-level measure of green building practices in areas like water conservation, energy efficiency, recycling construction debris, using recycled materials for construction, and landscaping with drought-tolerant native plants.

University construction projects receiving LEED designations include:

New Residence Hall– In 2010, this hall that opened in 2009 was the first college dormitory in the state to be awarded LEED silver certification.

Felix Martinez Building– In 2011, this building received LEED Gold for a major remodel. The building is now a one-stop shop for student services.

Lora Shields Building– In 2012, this building received LEED Gold for its extensive renovation. Originally a science complex, the building is now home to the School of Social Work and the social and behavioral science disciplines.

Natatorium– In 2012, this building received LEED Gold for its extensive renovation. The natatorium houses the university’s pool.

The new student center under construction includes numerous state-of-the art green features. Examples include energy-efficient geothermal technology to heat and cool the building, high- efficiency lighting, architectural shading of south glass by metal sunshades, using renewable woods, water harvesting, and more.

Some other highlights of the university’s Sustainability Program include:

Installing roof water harvesting systems and seven underground cisterns in strategic locations across campus to conserve water.

Xeriscaping 60 percent of the landscaping on campus.

Implementing a campus-wide recycling program that includes a new campus recycling drop-off center that is also open to the broader community.

Replacing old steam boilers on campus with new, efficient small-package boilers.

Installing energy-efficient LED lights in Wilson Complex and Donnelly Library, two of the

largest buildings on campus.

Purchasing hybrid vehicles for the university’s fleet.

Greene said there’s another reason university’s need to strive for sustainability.

“It’s our job as educators to teach a new generation about sustainability and how to better manage our limited resources. This will be even more critical in the future,” Greene said.