Sustainable Responsibility

Sustainability had always been a buzz word used among environmental activists and people who chose to live an “alternative” lifestyle. It had been somewhat of a trendy way of living and seemed to be out of reach for quite some time–it did not seem like a realistic lifestyle that everyone could live.

Recently, sustainability has become more than just a buzz word. It has become a common lifestyle, a moral, a movement, and a responsibility. Since so many individuals and corporations have chosen to join the sustainability movement, why not give the stragglers a push in the right direction? Should all new public and private property constructions and renovations have a requirement to be constructed sustainably and according to certification program guidelines? A simple response to this: Why not? Why shouldn’t all people be required to be sustainably responsible? This should absolutely be a requirement. Sustainability benefits people in multiple ways as well the obvious benefits the environment receives.

One establishment that has jumped into the sustainability movement is the University of Oregon. The school adopted the Sustainable Development Plan in 2000 which requires every new or remodeled building to be LEED certifiable. Since it is expensive to achieve LEED certification, every building must be able to pass the certification tests if the university chooses to have that building officially certified. Construction plans for the East Campus Residence Hall are currently in the works, and is planned to be completed in 2012. The new dorm will follow the guidelines of the Sustainable Development Plan and will incorporate many elements of sustainability including recycled water, solar panels, natural lighting and ventilation, green roofs, and the materials for the project will be purchased locally. Buying recycled or local materials saves money in the construction process and is a major benefit for the environment. Brad Black, the capital project manager for university housing, is working with the university and the design team on the new residence hall. Apart from the financial incentives of building sustainably, “it’s the responsible thing to do” Black stated. It’s about “doing the right thing not because you have to, but because you want to”.

Many students who attend the University of Oregon share its ideals on sustainability. Scott Rousseau, a junior at the U of O has started a sustainability plan that is currently being put into action in his fraternity house. The plan involves recycling requirements, energy-efficient lighting and heating, composting, solar panels and recycling water. The main idea behind the project is to change the entire building to be sustainable rather than just the individuals who live in it. While this project is just starting in his chapter house, his hope for the near future is to require all fraternity and sorority houses on campus to follow the project guidelines.

Beyond the borders of Oregon and its schools, individuals and corporations throughout the world have chosen the sustainable path. Jamestown Properties, a German real estate investment company recently made the decision to focus on sustainability and renovate its properties, all of which are located in the United States. Although this will initially be an expensive process, the company plans to profit from this investment in the long run by gaining more consumer interest and charging higher rental costs. On a smaller scale, corporations constantly hold local workshops to inform the public about ways to be green and sustainable in the home, such as building an ecoroof. Although these workshops can be about some small way to promote sustainability, the people that apply these elements to their homes are leading the way in the sustainability movement and are impacting others to do the same.

Who and what exactly define sustainability? Sustainability has many different levels and definitions, which makes it difficult to hold everyone to the same standard of sustainability. While there are official guidelines to sustainable development such as LEED certification and Energy Star qualification, these certifications can be a long, difficult process and extremely expensive. However, there are ways around these difficulties. A building can follow specific guidelines and be constructed to be certifiable, but does not actually have to pay for the accreditation. A blog post by Kelly Hart lists multiple green certification programs and simple acts of sustainability that can be applied in the home. Financial incentives and resale value are a major reason why people choose to build or remodel homes sustainably. Alice Rawsthorn wrote an article earlier this year about the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Switzerland. Three designers who are committed to sustainability debated their views on the matter. No conclusion actually came from this meeting except that a universal definition and understanding of sustainability needs to be established in order for the movement to have as much impact on the world as possible.

Although it is hard to believe that anyone could be against environmentally-friendly ideals, there has been some opposition to sustainable projects in Eugene, Oregon. Earlier this year Alan Pittman wrote an article for the Eugene Weekly about the highly controversial Riverfront Research Park Project. The University of Oregon and Oregon Research Institute are planning to sustainably construct a building and parking lot in a Eugene park despite the opposition from UO students and community members who are upset about the loss of scenery in the park. CJ Ciaramella wrote an article for the Oregon Daily Emerald about the controversy over the East Campus Residence Hall. The new dorm will be built next to the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, and will potentially block sunlight needed for Native American rituals performed at the museum. University officials and designers of the residence hall met with a Native American-style architect to work out a compromise on the design of the building. Both oppositions have to do with the location of the project, although the two projects are using sustainable building practices. One reason why people cringe at the sound of the S-word is the high expenses it requires. Anup Shah wrote an article that explores the different motives of businesses dealing with sustainability. A major trend that has been recognized is certain corporations have been completely consumed with making as much revenue as possible and have no concern for their social responsibilities such as environmental and sustainability issues. It can be difficult for businesses, especially in this time of financial crisis, to invest so much money in sustainability and try to look ahead to see how it would benefit them in the future.

Sustainability does not have to be the intimidating, foreign word that it is often made out to be. There are simple and cheap things anyone can do inside their own home to promote sustainability in one way or another. Although these acts may not have an immediate impact on the environment, as more people continue to join the movement the small acts will begin to add up. All new public and private buildings should be required to choose a sustainable certification programs guidelines to abide by during the construction process. They should not necessarily be required to be officially certified, but the building should meet the requirements needed to become certified. Remodel projects should only be done if it makes the building more sustainable on some level. All materials used in construction should be required to be recycled or local. I think these will all be requirements sometime in the future, maybe even in the next twenty years. Many countries have regulations on pollution and industries, and to start at the beginning of these issues, I think regulations will be put on the building processes of industries. Awareness of what non-sustainable building has done to the environment is high, and we already need to start digging ourselves out of this massive hole we have created. So many companies already choose to focus on sustainability, and I think this trend will continue to grow. Although there is still no official rule or definition of sustainable building, there are endless resources that can educate people on ways to easily incorporate sustainability into their lives. People have the resources and know what the responsible, moral thing is to do; they just have to want to do right thing.

References:

1.  UO Sustainable Design and Development Projects – accessed 2/16/10 12:52 pm. most recently accessed 3/11/10 3:09 pm

The University of Oregon adopted the Sustainable Development Plan in 2000 to promote sustainable development on campus and make every new or remodeled building LEED certifiable. This is a government-institutional source because it is on the school website, uoregon.edu. The title of the document is “Sustainable Development Plan”, was published October 5, 2000 and was last updated in September of 2005. No authors are named, but the document was created by the 1999-2000 Development, Policy, Implementation, and Transportation Subcommittee of the Campus Planning Committee, and the names of each person involved in creating the plan are listed. The names listed under contact information and questions are Dean Livelybrooks, chair, Physics and Christine Taylor Thompson, University Planning staff, and these names also appear in the introduction of people involved in creating the plan. This development plan was created and is funded by the school. Designers, people who work on the development of the campus and people who are interested in sustainable development would most likely read this document, and anyone can access it. This document was created to inform the public about the U of O’s development plan and efforts toward sustainability, and makes the assertion that the school must follow the Sustainable Development Plan and explains how this will be done. Since the document has not been updated since 2005, it leaves out five years of the plans productivity.

2. East Campus Residence Hall meeting notes – accessed 3/10/10 2:16 pm. most recently accessed 3/11/10 4:08 pm

The University of Oregon’s Facilities group met on campus to review the proposed design for the East Campus Residence Hall for the first time on October 28, 2009. This is a government-institutional source because it appears on the school website, uoregon.edu. The document is meeting notes and is titled “University Services–Focus Group Meeting No. 1”.  There are no authors named, but the names of those present are listed. The meeting’s minutes were taken by Lee Kerns and the document was published by Cathy Soutar, who works for UO Campus Planning and Real Estate. The East Campus Residence Hall is a project that is being done by the university, therefore this informational source on the dorm is funded by the school. Minutes taken in a meeting are intended to keep track of information for later purposes and to inform people who are not present. Everyone has access to this source. People who would read this document are those involved or interested in the new residence hall, but the main audience that is being reached is those who are involved in the creation of the dorm but did not attend the meeting. This source does not leave out any information because it does not have any bias–it is straightforward information about the proposed design of a building.

3.  Seeing the Investor Value in Being Green – accessed 3/6/10 6:19 pm. most recently accessed 3/11/10 4:44 pm

Jamestown Properties, a German real estate investment company has recently made the decision to focus on sustainable development and invest in remodeling buildings owned by the company, all of which are located in the United States. This article titled “Seeing the Investor Value in Being Green” was written by Alison Gregor. It is a journalistic source and was published to nytimes.com on March 2, 2010. The primary sources are Jamestown Properties and Matt M. Bronfman, the company’s managing director and chief operations officer, who is a spokesperson for the company in the article. New York Times is funded and controlled by shareholders, the News Corporation, advertisements and subscribers. The public and other companies are intended to see this article, and anyone can access it. This article is addressing the success and future plans of the company’s sustainable development efforts, and perhaps has the intention to persuade other companies to follow in the footsteps of Jamestown Properties. A piece of information that the article is missing is the date or estimation of when all of the company’s properties will be renovated.

4.  The ecoroofs are coming – accessed 2/16/10 9:14 pm. most recently accessed 3/11/10 10:35 pm

In April of 2009 Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services put on a free workshop to provide ecoroof information to the public in hopes of raising the ecoroof count. A follow up for this event is March 12-13. This is a citizen source from a blog on oregonlive.com and was posted April 13, 2009. It is titled “The ecoroofs are coming; a free workshop can show you how to prepare” and was written by Shelby Wood who works for the Oregonian. The primary sources used in it are an earlier Oregonian article about green roofs and the city of Portland. OregonLive.com is a part of the Oregonain and receives part of its funding from it, and the workshop was funded by Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services. Someone who would read the Q & A on this blog or would have attended the workshop would be a Portland resident interested in building an ecoroof. Anyone can access the information on this blog. This article was written to inform the citizens of Portland about the ecoroof workshop, which was intended to raise the ecoroof count in Portland. The article does not include specific information that will be presented at the workshop, such as costs.

5.  Green Guidelines and Certification for your Home – accessed 2/22/10 2:59 pm. most recently accessed 3/11/10 11:54 pm

There are currently many certification programs available to homeowners and companies that have guidelines of sustainable building and remodeling. There are several different reasons to build or remodel a home sustainably, a few including financial or resale incentives, and the homeowners’ morals. This blog post lists multiple, simple guidelines and certification programs that are available for homeowners. This is blog post from greenhomebuilding.com is a citizen source and was written by Kelly Hart. It is titled “Green Guidelines and Certification for your Home” and was published July 21, 2009. The primary sources used are the websites of the certification programs which are LEED, National Green Building Standard, Energy Star Qualified Homes, Green Building Guidelines and Health House. The non-profit website is run by Kelly Hart and his wife. Homeowners who are looking to live sustainably and responsibly in their homes would view this blog, and everyone has access to it. This article is making the assertion that sustainable living in the home can be simple and is important.

6.  Debating Sustainability – accessed 2/22/10 3:14 pm. most recently accessed 3/12/10 12:36 pm

Three designers who are committed to sustainability met at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Switzerland to debate their approaches to sustainability. This article titled “Debating Sustainability” was written by Alice Rawsthorn. It is a journalistic source and was published to nytimes.com January 31, 2010. The primary sources are the three designers, William McDonough, an American architect; Tim Brown, an industrial designer; and Cameron Sinclair, the co-founder of Architecture for Humanity, and Rawsthorn was also involved in the meeting. New York Times is funded and controlled by shareholders, the News Corporation, advertisements and subscribers. The audience this article is targeting is people interested in different sustainability projects and the movement of sustainability in general. It addresses the lack of a common understanding and definition of sustainability and makes the assertion that one needs to be reached. Something that is left out of this article is a solution to this problem, because no solution was reached at the meeting. This source is useful for my argument because it explains the difficulties that arise from attempting to hold everyone to the same standard of sustainable building, which is one of my points.

7.  Park or Parking Lot? Community fights UO development – accessed 2/16/10 12:19 pm. most recently accessed 3/12/10 2:03 pm

The University of Oregon and Oregon Research Institute are currently planning to begin the highly controversial Riverfront Research Park Project in a local Eugene park, despite the opposition from UO students and community members. This article represents two opposing views on a sustainable development project, and is useful for a counterargument to my issue. This article titled “Park or Parking Lot? Community fights UO development” by Alan Pittman was published to the Eugene Weekly on January 14, 2010. This is a Journalistic source and its primary sources are the university, Oregon Research Institue, Connecting Eugene, and UO students and faculty, and represent different views on the project. Eugene Weekly is a non-metropolitan alternative newspaper and is funded by subscribers and advertisers. Citizens of Eugene who are concerned with the environment and those interested or involved with the Riverfront Research Park Project is the targeted audience of this article. It addresses the concern of the sustainable building and parking lot taking away from the nature of the park, and the design compromises that are in progress. Although compromises were made, community members and students of the university are still upset with the development, and the article does not include what the final decision of the design will be.

8.  UO, longhouse to work out dorm compromise – accessed 2/16/10 1:28 pm. most recently accessed 3/12/10 2:29 pm

University officials and designers of the East Campus Residence Hall met with a Native American-style architect to make a compromise about the design of the building blocking sunlight needed for Native American rituals. This article explains an opposition to the new residence hall on campus, a sustainable project, and is a counterargument to my question. This article titled “UO, longhouse to work out dorm compromise” written by CJ Ciaramella was published to dailyemerald.com on December 2, 2009. The Oregon Daily Emerald is an independent student newspaper printed in Eugene, and is a journalistic source. The primary sources are Dave Hubin, the senior assistant to the University president, and other university officials. The Emerald is funded by student fees, but is separate from the university. This article is targeting students, people who are employed by the university, people who are involved or concerned with the development of the East Campus Residence Hall. It is making the assertion that compromises are being made to satisfy those who are upset with the design of the building and addresses their concerns. The final decision of a compromise over the design of the building is not included in the article.

9.  Corporate Social Responsibility – accessed 2/22/10 2:04 pm. most recently accessed 3/12/10 2:51 pm

Social justice activists are trying to hold businesses accountable for their actions because certain corporations have been completely consumed with making as much revenue as possible and have no concern for their social responsibilities such as environmental and sustainability issues. The article addresses two sides of an issue and makes an important counterargument. This article titled “Corporate Social Responsibility” written by Anup Shah was published to globalissues.org on July 7, 2007. This is a journalistic source and the website is funded by Google ads and donations. The primary sources referenced are Milton Friedman, author of Capitalism and Freedom and avid supporter of free markets, and Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop and social justice activist. The audience this article is trying to reach is corporate business owners, and is addressing businesses owners who do not take social responsibility for their corporations. It is making the assertion that business owners need to take social and environmental responsibility for their corporations, but do not because of the expenses, and that social justice activists are trying to change this but have not had much success in the attempt.

10.  Brad Black

Brad Black is the capital project manager for university housing at the University of Oregon. He works as a liaison for the University of Oregon and design team of the East Campus Residence Hall, which is expected to be completed in 2012. I first interviewed him on February 11, 2010. Brad is a relevant source to my topic because he is currently working on a sustainable development project on campus, which I reference in my argument. He is an example of a person who strongly believes it is an important responsibility to incorporate sustainability into building design and construction.

11.  Scott Rousseau

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