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Three PCC leaders picked to present at pivotal sustainability conference
Photos and Story by Kate Chester
One of the world’s leading summits focused on sustainability will feature presentations from three Portland Community College leaders this year.
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education – known to those in key circles as AASHE – hosts a prestigious fall conference attended by leaders from around the globe who work in organizations dedicated to both sustainability and higher education.
Set to take place Oct. 14-17 in Los Angeles, this year’s conference includes two presentations from Linda Gerber, president of the Sylvania Campus, as well as talks from Kim Smith, an environmental sociology instructor based at the Sylvania Campus, and Erin Stanforth, the college’s interim sustainability manager.
“I’m proud Portland Community College joins leading institutions such as Stanford University and the University of Arizona in a national commitment to sustainability in higher education,” said Gerber.
“AASHE is recognizing PCC for its success in creating and implementing its Climate Action Plan and measuring progress toward the college’s sustainability goals. We’ve brought many new facilities with low energy use on line and have renovated existing facilities with the same goal. Students are learning about sustainability in and out of the classroom and developing skills to live more sustainable lives. This is due entirely to the dedication of faculty and staff who imagine what is possible and engage students and colleagues in learning about, and taking action on, environmental problems,” she said.
Gerber will offer two presentations on institutional leadership in sustainable building with Tim Eddy from Hennebery Eddy Architects, as illustrated by the PCC Newberg Center “Path to Net Zero” model.
The 13,500-square-foot Newberg Center – which opened its doors to students in fall 2011 – is the first building constructed on nearly 16 acres that the college purchased in late 2009. It also is one of the college’s first construction projects stemming from the voter-approved 2008 bond measure.
The facility features five classrooms, two of which can become one large multi-purpose room when the folding partition is opened. Administration space, a reception area and a large Commons area for student interaction are part of the mix, too.
More than being simply new and modern, the building is unique because of its sustainability attributes: the Newberg Center is anticipated to be “Net Zero, Carbon-Neutral” – meaning it will generate the same amount of energy it expends – and is one of only a handful of academic facilities in the country considered “Net Zero-ready.” The building’s energy efficiency results from implementation of new technology to operate relatively simple building systems: Passive ventilation, radiant heating, natural daylight and solar energy. The facility has garnered several design awards since its opening, including the 2012 Top Ten Green Projects award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE).
At this year’s fall conference, Smith will share her experience as AASHE’s North American representative for higher education at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – RIO+20 – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this past June.
She will join Leanne Denby, president of Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS), to facilitate a discussion about how colleges and universities can move sustainability efforts and curriculum forward at their institutions.
While at RIO+20, Smith and Denby partnered with an international consortium of educators and administrators on the essential role of higher education in achieving sustainable development. Their collective work and presentation ensured that the United Nations included higher education goals in the adopted document, “The Future We Want.” Learn more about Rio+20 on the AASHE blog, where Smith and AASHE Executive Director Paul Rowland posted several items addressing key themes of the summit.
Meanwhile, Stanforth will present on the college’s implementation of STARS (Sustainability Tracking and Assessment Rating System), along with Denison University and Stanford University. The STARS system enables institutions to track their progress regarding sustainability in a variety of areas – classrooms, operations, planning, outreach and more. The three institutions – whose STARS reports are available on the AASHE Web site for members to study – will highlight their respective implementations of the system and how they’ve communicated the process to stakeholders.
Founded in 2005, AASHE strives to help coordinate and strengthen campus sustainability efforts at regional and national levels and is the premier North American professional association for those interested in advancing campus sustainability.