President Bill Clinton gives a keynote presentation this afternoon at the Climate Leadership Summit in Chicago, a three-day effort to help teach leaders from institutions of higher education how to become more energy efficient.
Clinton will address members of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, a global warming initiative among college leaders whose goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campuses across the country.
The summit began with a bus tour yesterday of college campuses across Chicago that recently built energy-efficient structures. About 22 school presidents and faculty visited the eco-friendly Lincoln Hall, one of the featured buildings on the tour, at The University of Illinois at Chicago.
Jeff Lewis, the architect for Lincoln Hall, believes new students who use the building will enjoy the renovations.
“The old building was cavelike and loud. I wanted to add more natural light. It’s more comfortable for the students. There used to be noisy fans students had to talk over.”
Walleed D’keidek, the mechanical engineer in charge of Lincoln Hall, explained why schools should build "green."
“Energy saving and efficiency is the main reason. Our geothermal heat is the biggest saver,” he says.
Geothermal power is extracted from beneath the earth and brought to the surface to heat and cool buildings. As improving technology makes it more accessible, geothermal power is growing in popularity because it’s also eco-friendly.
Many on the tour were interested in how to do projects like Lincoln Hall themselves.
Don Ryan, a member of Second Nature, a non-profit organization, wanted to know how much “red tape” is involved with getting a building like Lincoln Hall LEED certified. Lewis says it was very difficult in the past but the process is now more streamlined. A Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification requires that a building meet certain energy criteria for sustainability.
“It keeps people honest. You could call anything 'green' if you want to,” Lewis says. But the certification proves it. “It’s like a gold star. It helps with marketability and bragging rights.”
There’s much to brag about at Lincoln Hall with floors made from cork dust and linseed oil, the low-maintenance native plantings outside the building fed by stormwater drain-off and lights that are motion sensored. Solar panels will be installed in the roof come October. A participant gawked in awe at the floor-to-ceiling windows of a classroom and exclaimed, “I wish I was still in college.”
Cynthia Klein-Banai, Associate Chancellor for Sustainability at UIC, said the university is trying to educate students about sustainability. Various programs remind students to cut back on energy. Unplug, a student organization, encourages students to lower their energy consumption. There is also a recycling program. She said the programs in place so far are co-curricular.
The message hasn’t reached everyone. Student Stephanie Cascio wasn’t aware the new building on her campus is sustainable. “I didn’t know that," says the UIC junior. "It looks cool and new, but I don’t really care if my school is green. It’s not important to me.”
In addition to Clinton's address, other speakers include biologist Janine Benyus and Richard Fedrizzi, CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council. The summit will go through today and end tomorrow at the Palmer Hilton House.