Campus and Community


How Green Was My Building

Science and sustainability join forces in UWSP’s new Chemistry Biology Building

Kermit the Frog was right on the money—sometimes it decidedly ain’t easy being green. But as the developers of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s new Chemistry Biology Building might attest, it certainly is well worth the effort.

As if being a cutting-edge repository of scientific thought and resources wasn’t enough, the newest building on campus also serves as a beacon of environmental ingenuity and know-how. The four-story, 176,500-square-foot structure, which opened for business at the start of the Fall 2018 semester, incorporates several green elements in its construction and everyday operations. Since plans were made and blueprints drawn, a keen eye has been cast toward meeting or exceeding the exacting environmental standards laid out by the worldwide green-building authority, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

“The … concept for the building was designed to meet national standards for LEED certification, which is green design and environmental sustainability,” College of Letters and Science Interim Dean Eric Yonke told reporters from The Pointer earlier this year. Yonke also remarked that, if all goes according to plan, the building could achieve the coveted platinum-level certification—the highest rating LEED can bestow upon a project. Energy and water usage reports, sent once the building has been operational for a few years, should be the icing on the LEED-certification cake.

Green-building rating is a complex, multistep process that emphasizes site location, materials and resources used, energy performance, indoor air quality and innovation, among other considerations. Even ease of access via eco-friendly transportation methods, such as bikes and mass transit, is factored in when a building applies for LEED certification.

The Chemistry Biology Building scores major points in several of these categories. Bioswales have been incorporated into the outside landscaping to channel stormwater from roadways and other places where precipitation can accumulate, depositing it into rain gardens and filtering out debris in the process. Inside, sustainable features include large windows and a glass atrium, designed to harness passive solar energy, and energy- and water-efficient mechanical and electrical systems throughout. When completed, a tropical conservatory with waterfall, which will house plants to be used in instructional and research activities, may even help  improve and regulate air quality inside the building.

Rivaling the conservatory for the title of most aesthetically appealing green component is the second-floor terrace, which performs double-duty as a combination study/relaxation space and “green roof.” Native plants, grasses and deciduous shrubbery cover the terrace’s surface in colorful patterns designed to be as beautiful as they are functional. Despite the environmental terminology, the terraced rooftop is not only awash in shades of green. Plants and flowers have been chosen for their overall color schematic as well as their Wisconsin nativity. When in full bloom, summer wine ninebark, purple prairie clover and pale purple coneflowers will mingle with black-eyed Susans, prairie coreopsis and flowering prickly pear cactus to reveal a proud display of Pointer purple and gold. (The incorporation of “Cheddar Pink” dianthus could be considered a tip of the hat to the state’s dominant dairy product … or not.)

Like street-level rain gardens that surround the building, the green roof helps reduce stormwater runoff. The vegetation also acts as insulation, and helps distribute heat more evenly. Subsequently, less energy is used to heat and cool the building. When  combined with the ability of plants to soak up carbon dioxide, the green roof should help curb the university’s carbon footprint to a certain degree.

Installation of the terrace roof was funded by the Student Government Association Green Fund, which uses student segregated fees to support sustainability initiatives across campus. According to 2018-19 SGA president Brailey Kerber, facility services collaborated with students on a proposal for the project, which read in part: The campus will benefit from the creation of a green roof on the new science building through reduced energy usage, better air quality, improved storm water management, a lessening of the campus’s heat island effect, and by creating a unique space for students.

Sustainability measures abound on campus. These include the green roof on Albertson Hall and rain gardens around Old Main, as well as the installation of solar and photovoltaic panels on existing buildings such as residence halls and the Noel Fine Arts Center addition. But as the first completely new structure to grace the UWSP campus in more than 40 years, the Chemistry Biology Building fully and dedicatedly embodies the core value of sustainability as outlined in the university’s master plan.

But that’s not all.

“What we’re going to have is a state-of-the-art science facility here on campus to support all of our STEM work,” summed-up Yonke.

And that should make other universities green with envy.