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.

Gateway to Sustainability

top-of-story-mawhinney-finished-exteriors-011

Forty years after Mawhinney Hall first opened its doors to students, the grounds surrounding the building have been reshaped into a large catch basin for rainwater. “The question we kept asking as we worked on this project was, ‘How do we retain storm water runoff while improving access to the building and making the site more aesthetically pleasing,’” said Sean Vormwald, the College’s Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety. The answer to Vormwald’s question turned out to be the Green Gateway and Living Lab project, a 12-acre redesign of the land around the west and south sides of Mawhinney Hall.

The view from above shows the rectangular planters which drain into a large bio-retention area.
The view from above shows the rectangular planters which drain into a large bio-retention area.

As soon as the final degree was handed out at May’s commencement ceremony demolition of the land around Mawhinney Hall began. Removed were traditional cement retaining walls, sidewalks and asphalt. They were replaced by permeable pavers and porous asphalt which allow storm water to pass through. A series of underground pipes transport the storm water to large rectangular planters and ultimately to bio-retention areas filled with native plants. “All of the basins and planters have a bio-retention soil which controls how fast the water is released,” said Kristin Clinch, OCC’s Project Manager at Mawhinney Hall. “The basins were over-excavated by two-and-a-half feet to get enough soil in them to hold the rainwater so it can absorb back into the ground.”

On both sides of of Ransom MacKenzie Drive there were also new drains installed to capture runoff from the road. Since the road itself is pitched to either side, the rainwater flows from the road, through the new structure and ultimately into bio-retention areas.

The goal of the entire project was to keep runoff out of Furnace Brook which runs through the middle of campus. “Storm water would pick up sediment and pollution which would have an adverse effect on the stream,” said Vormwald. “We wanted to eliminate that problem and minimize the amount of water going downstream.”

The project also includes a new sustainability feature inside Mawhinney Hall. The Rainwater Harvesting System collects water on the roof and transports it to the building’s basement where it is run through filters and stored in a 2,100 gallon tank. The water is used in the toilet flushing process which reduces the College’s carbon footprint by both shrinking the amount of water purchased and reducing how much water needs to be treated.

The Green Gateway and Living Lab project also includes a redesigned Centro bus stop on the west side of Mawhinney Hall. Improvements to the layout include a safer stop for riders as they wait for and get off the bus.

The project was funded through the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation’s Green Innovation Grant Program. It was designed by Appel Osborne Landscape Architecture and Peterson Guadagnolo Consulting Engineers.

Below are a series of videos which compare the old technology and the new technology used in the Green Gateway and Living Lab Project. In this first video Vormwald shows how water is absorbed by the permeable pavers.

In the next video Vormwald shows how water is absorbed into the porous asphalt.

In this final video Vormwald pours water onto traditional asphalt.

Halls of Learning

Green Walls in Ferrante 044
This living wall in Ferrante Hall shows students how plants impact human and environmental health.

The striking displays in Ferrante Hall catch your eye. The longer you look at them the more you learn. A large wall in the stairwell between the 2nd and 3rd floors has been turned into a huge lesson in how plants impact environmental health and human health in positive ways. An 8-foot by 10-foot stainless steel box hangs on the wall. Inside it are potted plants sitting on angled shelves. Bright lights and a water pump provide the plants the fuel they need to grow. Surrounding the plants are informational panels detailing how plant diversity supports environmental health.

The display was a collaborative effort between faculty in the Biology department, OCC’s Facilities department and three people in particular; the College’s Director of Sustainability Sean Vormwald, Biology Professor Alaa Craddock, and Graphic Artist Amanda Pendock. “My original idea was to make an educational terrarium to place in one of our display cabinets,” said Craddock. “Sean suggested we install a living wall and let it be the focal point for an educational piece about the role of plants in human health. I like what we ended up with. The wall is a great way to bring the feeling of the natural world inside and the content provides food for thought as students relax in the sitting area between the second and third floors.” Craddock wrote the text which was used to create the  informational panels. Pendock took Vormwald and Craddock’s vision and used her skills as a graphic artist to make it reality.

A display on the second floor of Ferrante Hall introduces students to careers in environmental health.
A display on the second floor of Ferrante Hall introduces students to careers in environmental health.

Walk through the main doors, enter the second floor of Ferrante and more informational panels invite students to, “Discover a Career in Environmental Health.” A mixture of bright colors, photographs and text encourage students to, “Discover how a native species could be used as a bioindicator,” or “You could monitor and protect municipal water supplies,” or “You could identify the source of a food contamination outbreak.” “Our goal was to give students the opportunity to envision themselves in these careers,” said Vormwald. Craddock authored the text on the second floor as well. “I thought a display that showed the exciting variety of workplace environments would open student’s eyes to what daily life in environmental health careers might be like,” she said.

The displays on the second floor and in the stairwell were completed in November 2015 and have the same look and feel as a display on the first floor which was installed during the 2014-15 academic year. It highlights campus-wide sustainability initiatives including solar panels, electric car charging stations and an orchard in the northwest corner of the campus. There is also an energy dashboard which shows how much energy is being used in campus buildings.

The entire series of displays is funded by SUNY 2020 grants.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

LEED Gold Honors

October 7, 2014 was a “golden” day at OCC. Rick Fedrizzi, the President, CEO and Founding Chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council came to the College to participate in a significant ceremony. Fedrizzi presented OCC with two LEED Gold plaques for its two newest buildings, Academic II and the SRC Arena and Events Center. The ceremony was held in the spacious and breathtaking Instrument and Choral Rehearsal room in Academic II.

10a LEED Gold Media Event in Academic II 10
OCC received two LEED Gold plaques for its two newest buildings: Academic II (left) and the SRC Arena and Events Center (right).

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. Both Academic II and the SRC Arena and Events Center use considerably less energy and water than conventional buildings of their types, and were constructed using significant amounts of recycled content.

Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council, speaks with students enrolled in Onondaga's Architectural Technology and Interior Design majors. He met with them in the Whitney Applied Technology Center.
Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council, speaks with students enrolled in OCC’s Architectural Technology and Interior Design majors. He met with them in the Whitney Applied Technology Center.

During the LEED Gold presentation ceremony Fedrizzi commended OCC for making difficult choices when the buildings were being designed. “It would have been very easy for the College leadership to say, ‘we’re spending enough on these buildings. Let’s dress these things up. It will look great and no one will know the difference.’ But this College made the decision doing that wasn’t good enough. You wanted to do something that was better for the students, the faculty, and ultimately the community at-large. The commitment to make these buildings perform even better than they look is an investment in the world around us. Your leadership on this project isn’t everyday kind of stuff.”

Prior to the ceremony Fedrizzi held a question and answer session with nearly 100 students and campus community members. He also visited the Whitney Applied Technology Center and spent time with students enrolled in the Architectural Technology and Interior Design majors. “It’s awesome that he came here to speak with us,” said Ivan Hanson, a sophomore Architectural Technology major from Christian Brothers Academy. “It was very inspirational to meet him and hear his message. For someone who leads an international organization to spend time talking with us about what we are learning in class and to be able to exchange ideas with him was an amazing opportunity.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.