The Arboretum’s Greatest Exhibit: Penn’s Leadership in Sustainability
March 11, 2011
When President Amy Gutmann became the first Ivy League president to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment
in 2007, she thrust Penn into a leadership role in addressing global climate change. It’s a whole new way of thinking, and Penn is making history in a defining issue of our time.
With the Morris Arboretum’s
new $13 million Horticultural Center
, Penn shows what is possible
in environmental sustainability. Last month, the Horticulture Center earned Platinum Level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
certification, the highest rating of the U.S. Green Building Council
. The Horticultural Center is Penn’s first LEED Platinum certified building and only the second in the state of Pennsylvania.
“What is important,” says Paul Meyer, the F. Otto Haas Director of the Morris Arboretum, “is that we are an exhibit of sustainability. We hope that our building serves as an example for the entire city and region.”Green buildings and renovations
are a centerpiece of Penn’s Green Campus Partnership
and a key priority of the Making History
campaign. Part of Penn’s Climate Action Plan
to reduce carbon emissions calls for a minimum of Silver LEED ratings for all new construction and major renovations—Penn’s new Music Building
recently received Gold certification and Weiss Pavilion
is expected to receive a Silver rating, as is the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology
, despite its strict technical requirements.
More than green buildings, Penn’s commitment to environmental sustainability encompasses nearly all areas of University life. Penn is shrinking its carbon footprint
by reducing energy consumption through purchasing renewable, wind-generated power and implementing sophisticated energy-monitoring technology to maximize efficiency and minimize cost. Simple steps such as installing more bike racks and creating programs to encourage the use of mass transit work to significantly reduce carbon emissions
, and making recycling not only a priority—but also easy to do—minimizes waste
. Even Penn’s purchasing practices
have shifted to buying organic and local food
and environmentally friendly products.
Where Penn can have its furthest reach, though, is sustainability education
. Penn has integrated sustainability and environmental issues into the curriculum across its schools, and has created a new inter-disciplinary minor in Sustainability and Environmental Management
. Penn supports scholarship on sustainability through Undergraduate Climate Action Research Grants
, and programs such as the Initiative for Global and Environmental Leadership
bring together business leaders and Penn professors to investigate issues in business and the environment.
This professional and academic collaboration is already happening at the Horticultural Center, which Meyer sees developing into a hub for green research and teaching. The center is attracting architects and landscape architects to learn best practices in modern sustainable energy and water-management technologies, like the center's unique green roofs.
“The eight-inch depth of the planting area on the large garage roof allows for a much greater diversity of plants than most people have experience with," notes Meyer. "Our horticulturalists will be experimenting with plants adapted for seasonal climate conditions ... we will be collecting a body of knowledge that we can share.”
A model for eco-friendly building and an educational tool for cutting-edge practices in sustainability, the Morris Arboretum's Horticulture Center demonstrates Penn's commitment to leadership in environmental sustainability.
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