The Michigan Daily- Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - The Michigan Daily 5B
HOW STUDENTS CONVINCED ROSS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATORS THAT MAKING'
R NEW SCHOOL GREEN IS GOOD BUSINESS. BY LISA HAIDOSTIA. PHOTS Y SAM WOLL0
the dark marble countertops and heavy
wood-paneled doors of the new Ross School of Business
building's bathrooms, the electric green handles on the
toilets seema little out of place.
Coated to resist germs, the handle can be pushed
either up or down, creating a high-intensity or low-in-
tensity flush. The dual-flush toilets, estimated to reduce
water consumption by as much as 67 percent, are just
one example of the eco-friendly features included
throughout the building.
The new Tappan Street landmark has been officially
open for nearly a month, but the buzz surrounding it
has barely dimmed. Its modern, rust-colored exterior
sits in sharp contrast to nearby buildings like the col-
legial, ivy-coated buildings in the Law Quad. And any
LSA student must be a little envious of the three-story
atrium and 7,500-square-foot fitness center.
But while the bold design and exceptional facilities
have garnered the most attention, the most noteworthy
aspect of the building might be in its environmentally-
Featuring huge skylights above the main atrium,
the 270,000-square-foot building takes advantage of
natural light while using high-efficiency electricity and
daylight-dimming systems. Some of its roof is covered
with soil and plants to insulate the building, filter rain-
fall and improve air quality by trapping impurities.
Receptacles throughout the building are dedicated
to recycling cans and paper, and the building also has
non-toxic carpets and waterless urinals. The walls are
covered with low-VOC (volatile organic compound)
paint, which reduces the emission of air pollutants and
And from the start, 94 percent of demolition debris
and 50 percent of debris from construction was recy-
Though the paperwork hasn't yet been submitted,
administrators will apply for LEERD (Leadership in
Environmental and Energy Design) certification and
expect to achieve the Silver level. By no means a nation-
al stand out - silver is only second out of four levels of
certification - the Rossbuilding's biggest achievement
might be to set a new standard for University build-
The Dana Building, home of the School of Natural
Resources and the Environment, is the only campus
building to date that has received a LEED certification,
attaining the Gold level.
0 This latest addition to campus suggests that envi-,
ronmentally conscious construction may now be the
norm for University projects. Students and faculty have
begun to demand greener standards for campus devel-
opment - and in the case of the Business School, have
"This was a watershed moment in changing how we
design buildings at the University of Michigan," said
University alum Brian Swett, who was one of several
graduate students in the Erb Institute for Global Sus-
tainable Enterprise who pushed for the LEERD certifica-
tion of the Business School.
Prof. Tom Lyon, Director of the Erb Institute, said
it's especially important for business schools to achieve
LEED certification because so many of the employers
who recruit MBA and BBA students are doing so them-
"I think the fact that we got it LEED certified makes
a very important statement because it says you're really
on the cutting edge of what businesses should be doing
in the future," said Graham Mercer, assistant dean of
the Ross school.
But the national benchmark for green construction
has gotten so high that even with the steps it's taken,
the Business School remains far from the environmen-
tal cutting edge.
The new Stanford Business School campus, set to
open in 2010, is seeking the highest possible Platinum
level LEED certification, as will the Glendale, Arizona-
based Thunderbird School of Global Management.
MIT's forthcoming Sloan School of Management
will be solar-ready, allowing for the installation of solar
panels at a later date, and New York University's Stern
School of Business provides bottle filling stations to
encourage students to reuse their water bottles.
"We should not be tooting our own horns, and we're
not taking a leadership role at all," Swett said, adding
that the University of Michigan has a "terrible record
of building green."
Save for the Dana Building, which features solar pan-
els and composting toilets, the University of Michigan
has lagged in environmentally-conscious construction.
Though its College Sustainability Report Card grade
for green building rose from a C in 2007 to a B in 2008
and 2009, schools like the University of Virginia, the
University of California at Berkeley and the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill each scored an A in the
category in the last two years.
Sue Gott, a planner who worked on site consider-
ations for the new building, insisted that green con-
struction is a main priority for the University even if
LEED certification isn't obtained due to administrative
"In anything that we are designing, we look for ways
to be energy conscious and we look for sustainability approached the administration with "literally a binder
opportunities," she said. of resources." The student team of "rabble rousers," as
Swett called them, wanted to prove to the administra-
tion that the price premium for achieving the certifica-
According to several professors and students tion was not prohibitively high. Though some contend
involved in the building's initial planning phases, Uni- the cost of LEED certifying a building can be up to 25
versity administrators, architects and the New York percent of the total cost, Lyon, with the Erb Institute,
City-based architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox ini- said those estimates are far off base, with extra costs
tially resisted certifying the building due to the extra usually being less than one percent.
expense. "The numbers are not huge," said Prof. Andy Hoff-
The LEED system faces criticism for not only add- man, an associate director of the Erb Institute. In a
ing costs in the form of paperwork, extra research and paper he co-authored, Hoffman cited several recent
LEED consultants, but also employing a too-rigid point studies showing that when lowered operating costs
system. For example, the green roofs of the Ross build- are taken into account, the construction and certifica-
ing - while no doubt environ- tion costs of green building
mentally beneficial - do not and standard buildings are
count toward a LEED certifi- - - - negated by savings in ener-
cation. M-A R R , RtS2 H A O N gy costs within years.
Despite itsfaults, the system .- - Mercer said the cost of
is still widely well-regarded ' - '- - H - R certifying the Ross project
because it helps force builders W U C N was one percent of the $110
to think more broadly about million total construction
environmental options. It V . cost, which would mean a
also serves as an recognizable hefty $L1 million.
yardstick for green buildings nationwide. At the very In meetings with Ross administrators, the Erb stu-
least,ea LEED certification generates good publicity. dents presented case studies, best practices and options
"It would have been tremendously embarrassing if for materials. One student took Business School Assis-
Ross had opened with less than the Silver, given what tant Dean Graham Mercer, who headed the project, on
our competition is doing," Swett said. a tour of the LEED certified Ford Rouge plant in Dear-
Several Erb Institute students started a petition for born.
the Ross building to achieve LEED certification and set After a few meetings, Magnus said the administra-
up meetings with Ross administrators to make their tion shifted from being "skeptically interested to sin-
case for it. cerely interested" in pursuing the certification.
"We just kind of took it on as a personal mission that "The Erb students were the instrumental factor in
we wanted to convince the leadership of the business moving the school to go for LEED certification," Lyon
school that they should consider making the build- said. Magnus said the administration "definitely hadn't
ing LEED," said University alum Bryan Magnus, who considered" achieving the LEED label.
was one of the first Erb students to begin research- "To their credit, the deans at Ross really listened to
ing sustainable options for the building. He said they what the students had to say," Lyon said. "Once they
,YY t fI
decided to pursue LEED certification, they've been very
enthusiastic about it and really followed through."
Mercer said that although the administration was
"still debating" whether to certify the building when
the Erb students first approached them, greening the
building was a stated objective from the start.
"Our goal was always to make it an environmentally-
friendly building," he said. "We wanted to make some
sort of statement that this is important."
Mercer said a reason they decided to follow through
with the certification was so students and employers
would know the extent of the building's green fea-
"You can throw an awful lot of money into a build-
ing trying to get to some esoteric level with not a lot of
gain," he said.
Of course, a lot of the decisions on what could and
couldn't be made green came down to money. Swett
said that by the time he got involved in the project,
there were significantbudget constraints.
"The costs very quickly were running out of con-
trol," he said. "They were open to suggestions, but not
at added costs. From a green perspective, it inhibits a
little bit what you can do."
But Mercer said that when plans had to be shifted
around budget crunches, environmental features were
"We said we're not doing it because that's a big part
of the building, a big part of the design - we've got to
leave it alone," he said.
Unless two separate plans had been drawn up - one
with LEED certification and the other without it - one
could only guess at how much of the building's price tag
the green attributes actually made up.
See BUSINESS SCHOOL, Page 8B
(LEFT and RIGHT) The three-story atrium inside the new Ross School of Business building. (FAR LEFT) Special tiles on the
building's exterior insulate the building to save energy.