Funny Solutions to Sustainability – Green Buildings Across the Pond

by Freddie Bruhin-Price

At MMU we are proud and green. Or green and proud. Either way, this year the University came third in the People and Planet’s University “Green League.” Our top-three run extends back to 2013, when we were ranked First, and the 2015 table marks our second consecutive third-placed finish. MMU Vice-Chancellor Professor John Brooks said: “We have had an amazing 18 months at number 1 but have not rested on our laurels, putting a stronger focus on the student experience. Clearly the competition has heated up, so we are genuinely delighted to be in the Top 3 for 2015.”

Today, however, continuing a recent theme on this blog, we look across to America for another shining example of sustainability. A music building at the University of Tennessee has been given a special green seal of approval this week. The Natalie L Haslam Music Center has been LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, at silver level. The LEED program, much like Futures, offers three-tiered awards, from Bronze, to Silver to Gold, which recognize innovation and special care taken to create sustainable buildings.

Among the criteria for LEED certification are sustainability, energy use, water systems, construction materials, resources and overall design. The Haslam building has used a variety of innovations to achieve the accolade. According to principal Jeff Pappas, ““Many hours of careful planning went into seeking this designation.” One measure which is obvious to anyone who perceives the building is the eye-catching coloured glass that makes up much of the building’s facade, which is coated with a specially designed pattern which reduces heat gain.

What’s more, according to local news website Tennessee Today,  “The building conserves water by collecting and storing rainwater in underground cisterns used to irrigate the site’s plants and lawns.” Somewhat surprisingly, Tennessee’s most recent rainfall figures indicate a substantially wetter climate than that of Manchester. In 2013, the state experienced 51 inches of precipitation, in comparison to 31 in Manchester. Although I’m sure most residents of Manchester would hasten to dispute these figures, this would suggest that the University’s water-conservation measures are particularly well invested.

Since 2007 the University of Tennessee has adopted a sustainable building policy, and other buildings on its campus, including the Ayres Hall building, have also been LEED certified. The University’s work is admirable, and perhaps parallels can be drawn between MMU and the University of Tennessee. It is refreshing to hear about an institution in the USA taking such care over green issues when British propaganda tends towards marking out all Americans as gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting cavemen. Without compromising the appearance of the building, the Haslam complex has been constructed as an eco-friendly place to learn and work.




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