UC San Diego’s LEED v4 EBOM Master Site, a 4 year endeavor

By Leanne Kao

After multiple years of correspondence between different departments on campus and of multiple students’ efforts, and under the invaluable guidance of Sharmila Krishnamurty, a LEED consultant with Ackerstein Sustainability, UC San Diego’s LEED v4 EBOM Master Site was submitted on Jan 28, 2019.

You may be wondering, “what does ‘LEED v4 EBOM Master Site’ even mean”?

Taking the phrase piece by piece, “LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” is “the most widely used green building rating system in the world”, as proclaimed by its parent organization, USGBC (US Green Building Council). It’s an assessment used to determine and certify how sustainable a building is, from “Certified” to “Platinum”, based on the building phase, whether still in design or already in operation. The assessment assigns buildings points through different credits under 8 different categories, such as “Water Efficiency”, “Energy and Atmosphere”, and “Materials and Resources”. “v4” is the latest version of the LEED assessment system, most up to date with current regulations established under Title 24, ASHRAE, and other entities integrated into California’s own statewide building standards. “EBOM (Existing Building Operations + Maintenance)” refers to the specific LEED rating assessment type that was used for the campus. And finally, the “Master Site” is a collection of LEED v4 EBOM assessment credits which were deemed as relevant to all of UC San Diego’s main campus and SIO based on current policies and operations. As such, any building project done in that scope of territory automatically has those credit points towards LEED v4 O+M certification. The credits enveloped in the Master Site include:

  • Site Management: we have site management practices that preserve ecological integrity and encourage environmentally conscious practices.
  • Site Management Policy: we ensure our site management practices in our surrounding ecological integrity via official, documented rules
  • Integrated Pest Management Policy: we minimize pest problems and exposure to pesticide whenever possible
  • Green Cleaning Policy: we use cleaning products with lower levels of contaminants that compromise air quality and human health than found in conventional products
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke: we’re a smoke free campus

Your follow-up question might be, “why does this matter?”

The UC Office of the President requires all new buildings and major renovations built on UC campus property to attain a LEED rating of at least “Silver”: that’s how seriously LEED is taken as an indicator for efficiency in building design and performance. In fact, some LEED credits which the team found UC San Diego didn’t meet became topics of conversation on whether the related parts of those policies and operations should be changed, in the effort to be more sustainable. Soon enough, with strengthening efforts to meet zero-waste conditions and carbon neutrality, the LEED rating requirement might bump up to “Gold”. This makes sense since, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency), CO2 emissions from building construction and operations account for almost 40% of all CO2 emissions in the world; it’s undeniable that the building industry plays a significant hand in how global warming develops through the future.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this Master Site project’s conclusion is that review from USGBC’s side came back without questions! I guess you could say the 4 years of work were worth it.

Many thanks to Sharmila for her important guidance in combing through the necessary details for this Master Site, and to the original student team which spearheaded this effort, USGBC Students at UC San Diego.

If you’re a student who’s interested in learning more about green buildings and joining related on-campus projects, email ucsd.gbc@gmail.com.