Audit tests USC sustainability

In an effort to increase environmental awareness on campus and promote behavioral change within the community, students in the class “Spatial Sciences Practicum” led a Green Room Certification Sustainability Audit on Tuesday at the Spatial Sciences Collaborative Classroom in the Allan Hancock Foundation Building.

The class’ professor Darren Ruddell said that the event, which was held in honor of Earth Day, was organized and spearheaded by the students in the class.

“It’s all student-generated,” Ruddell said. “I’m just more of a facilitator.”

The aim of the audit was to obtain more information about sustainability practices throughout the campus, according to Monty Hasan, a junior majoring in geodesign.

“We’d like to learn which departments on campus are doing a better job of being sustainable, [as well as] which departments need better awareness of their current practices,” Hasan said.

He added that with this data, the community can work towards finding alternative, more sustainable practices in order to create less of an impact on campus energy and water use, among others.

“The plan is [to] compare the department’s first, and then from there, in the future, give them some recommendations about how they can improve their practices,” Hasan said.

After a few minutes of discussion, the students split up and began their investigations of different buildings on campus, such as the campus bookstore, EVK, Ground Zero and Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall.

According to Griffin Kantz, a junior majoring in policy, planning and development, the sustainability of some buildings, specifically Ground Zero Performance Café, was remarkably high.

“I didn’t expect anyone to get 100 percent or close to 100, since these categories are very high-end green strategies like [having] all CFL lightbulbs, or the water refilling stations instead of water fountains,” Kantz said. “I was surprised that some of us got pretty high, [nearly] 80 percent.”

At the same time, however, Kantz said he was also surprised by the inefficiency of some buildings that were expected to be more sustainable.

“One of the surprising things was this particular building, Ralph and Goldie Lewis Hall, actually underwent a project called the Smart Group Project in the early 2000s, where the whole electrical grid and their building occupant use patterns were observed to really minimize energy consumption and the water waste,” Kantz said. “But it only got around 60 percent on the survey.”

In the case of buildings like these, Kantz said there may be technology that has been developed over the past 10 years that may be more efficient. At the same time, he added that the problem may instead lie with the categories and standards themselves.

“This project was actually award winning,” Kantz said. “The chief architect on it actually got an award for top 15 projects in an architecture magazine, so I was really surprised that it got only 60 percent.”

With the information gained from this audit, Ruddell hopes his students will learn to apply and identify sustainable practices not only on campus, but also in their personal lives.

“I hope they can learn some new things about being sustainable, not just where they go to school and spend their waking hours, but also [bring] it home, practice it at home, share it with roommates and family [and promote] more sustainable practices,” Ruddell said.

For Hasan, it is important that the community will begin to understand exactly what goes into becoming more sustainable through the results of the audit.

“You need to constantly reach out and involve the whole community,” Hasan said. “It’s not just a one-person thing, it’s a group effort. It’s really about spreading education and awareness.”