National Leaders in Sustainability

The solar panels on the roof of the Whitney Applied Technology Center are one of the many reasons why OCC was chosen for “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 399 Colleges: 2018 Edition.” OCC was one of only four community colleges to make the list.

Onondaga Community College’s stature as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the nation has earned it inclusion in “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 399 Green Colleges: 2018 Edition.”  OCC is one of only four community colleges to be honored with this designation and the only one east of the Mississippi River. You can view the complete list here.

The Princeton Review created the list based on the school’s sustainability-related policies, practices, and programs. More than 25 data points were weighted in the tallies for the Green Rating score which was done on a scale of 60 to 99. Colleges with Green Rating scores of 80 or higher made it into this guide. OCC’s score was an outstanding 90.

In the Princeton Review’s analysis of the College’s sustainable features it wrote the following:

“Onondaga Community College is serious about sustainability. And when it comes to taking environmental action, the college has made some impressive strides. To begin with, Onondaga installed a solar array on the roof of the Whitney Applied Technology Center back in 2011. In addition to being used for hands-on educational purposes, the panels reduce the college’s greenhouse gas emissions and produce renewable energy. More specifically, the panels replace approximately 25,000 kilowatt hours of Onondaga’s annual electricity consumption, equivalent to the energy use of three to four residential homes.

Rick Fedrizzi of the US Green Building Council presents OCC with two LEED Gold plaques.

Just as remarkable is the college’s SRC Arena and Events Center which has achieved LEED Gold certification. Among its many green facets are highly efficient faucets, toilets and urinals, which use about 35 percent less water than conventional buildings. The arena also features efficient lighting and HVAC systems that consume roughly 26 percent less energy than a regular facility. Onondaga’s Academic II building, which has many sustainable design features, also achieved LEED Gold certification. Extending their green beyond construction projects, Onondaga has recently planted a fruit tree orchard in an effort to promote sustainability, food security, and learning. The orchard contains cherry, pear, apple, peach, and plum trees, all of which will be made available to the school community. Finally, Onondaga is working towards developing the next generation of leaders within the green movement. The college received a grant from the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) to develop sustainability-related academic programs and workforce training. Students are privy to such classes as Introduction to Sustainable Construction, Hydrology, Design and the Built Environment, and Environmental Health.”

Earlier this year OCC was named one of “The 10 Best Green Schools in America 2018” by the Knowledge Review.

OCC’s sustainability-related efforts are led by Sean Vormwald, LEED AP BD+C. He serves as the Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety. “We’re really excited to be recognized again by the Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges. This recognition demonstrates how much Onondaga Community College has accomplished in the area of sustainability. We’ve been working to integrate sustainability throughout the College’s operations, while utilizing the campus as a living laboratory to teach students about sustainability concepts and green technology. In addition to providing learning opportunities for students, many of Onondaga’s sustainability initiatives—such as energy management, renewable energy, and green building—also help reduce operating costs by using resources more efficiently,” said Vormwald.

Sustainable Excellence

Solar panels on the rook of the Whitney Applied Technology Center are part of the College's campus-wide comittment to sustainability.
Solar panels on the roof of the Whitney Applied Technology Center are part of the College’s campus-wide commitment to sustainability.

OCC’s commitment to sustainability is earning the College nationwide recognition and inclusion on several “best of” lists including:

“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized nationally for our commitment to sustainability. OCC has made excellent progress toward our goals related to integrating sustainability throughout campus operations and providing sustainability-focused learning opportunities for students. We’re proud to be making a difference in the lives of students both today and for generations to come,” said Sean Vormwald, LEED AP BD+C, OCC’s Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety.

Furnace Brook Retreat Center
Furnace Brook Retreat Center

In this decade alone OCC’s major sustainability-related accomplishments include earning LEED Gold status for both the SRC Arena and the Academic II building, the opening of the Furnace Brook Retreat Center which is a classroom for smart technology, the rebuilding and reconfiguration of the West Quad to capture storm water runoff and the recent improvements to Mawhinney Hall which are also aimed at keeping runoff out of Furnace Brook and reusing storm water.

OCC Named “Green College”

The prestigious Princeton Review has awarded Onondaga Community College “Green College” status for its commitment to environmental responsibility. A total of 861 colleges applied for the classification. OCC was one of only 353 selected.

While reviewing and evaluating OCC’s dedication to sustainability it highlighted the following “green facts:”

  • Available transportation alternatives.
  • 100% new construction LEED-certified.
  • 49% water diversion rate.
  • 15% of school energy from renewable resources.
  • College offers a sustainability-focused degree.
  • College has a sustainability officer and sustainability committee.

The Princeton Review based its choices on “Green Rating” scores it tallied for colleges using data from its 2013-14 survey of school administrators. The survey asked them to report on sustainability-related policies, practices, and programs. More than 25 data points were weighted in the assessment.

During the fall 2014 semester the College received two LEED Gold plaques for its two newest buildings, Academic II and the SRC Arena and Events Center. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a third-party certification system that ensures buildings are designed and constructed using green building principles. Rick Fedrizzi, the President, CEO and Founding Chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council came to the College to participate in a ceremony honoring the achievements. You can view a story and photos from the event here.