Green college campus in St. Louis area earns high marks

Sunday, August 21, 2011 | 4:28 p.m. CDT; updated 5:16 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 21, 2011

WILDWOOD — St. Louis Community College's Wildwood campus was built to be environmentally friendly. Turns out those moves are pretty friendly to the bottom line, too.

The Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis reports that green features installed when the campus was built four years ago save the community college district about $45,000 annually.

"We feel confident we're meeting the projected resource savings targets," said Dennis Dill, district manager of maintenance and HVAC for the district. "They were a 30 percent reduction in energy use and a 30 percent reduction in water use."

The campus includes features that earned it a gold rating in the building certification system known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED. That is the second-highest rating possible. The LEED standard verifies that a building was designed and built to improve energy savings, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources.

About half of the roof includes aluminum pans containing soil, small stones and plants. The other half is painted white to reflect sunlight.

Plantings insulate the building and make it cooler in summer, Dill said.

"These plants are very drought tolerant," said John Henry Tetstill, facilities manager at the Wildwood campus. "We're even starting to get birds nesting up here, like bobwhites."

The plants absorb most rain, but the rest drains into four 20,000-gallon brick cisterns that reduce runoff.

"We also have, in each classroom, light shelves to reflect natural light into the room,"Tetstill said. "There are sensors in the lighting shelves to sense the amount of natural light, so we only have to use the energy we need and can save on electricity."

Fans in rooms work in reverse to draw air up to the ceilings, which don't touch the walls, Tetstill said. That allows air to continually circulate, making it healthier.

A native prairie is planted on part of the campus including native Missouri plant species that require little if any attention, Tetstill said.

"We cut it only once a year and use no irrigation," he said.

Starting this fall, the St. Louis community colleges will offer classes to train students to work in the field of sustainable environmental design. Officials say it will be a resource for professionals to enhance their employability through training in green building and design.

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