Jeffords Hall part of environmentally friendly future

If you’ve looked next to the Davis Center recently, you most likely noticed Jeffords Hall, the $55.7 million building that will be finished this spring, and the future home to the departments of Plant Biology and Plant and Soil Sciences. “The part I’m most excited about is the landscape around the building,” Professor and Chair of Plant and Soil Sciences Department Deborah Neher said.”It will be an outdoor laboratory. The entire west side will be edible, with vegetables, fruit trees and shrubs … [and] the northeast corner will be an arboretum with over 100 species of woody ornamental plants,” Neher said.  “Faculty and students housed in the building will be involved in planting, maintaining and harvesting the landscape.”Jeffords Hall is named after Vermont senator James M. Jeffords who spent 32 years in Congress as a leading advocate of environmental protection. Construction on the building began in July 2008 and is scheduled to be completed in March of next year.In accordance with UVM’s Environmental Design in New and Renovated Buildings policy, effective January 2008, Jeffords Hall has been designed to meet LEED silver level criteria.  The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), is the nationally accepted environmental ranking benchmark developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a third party certification organization.Silver status requires 33-38 points from a 69-point checklist of sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation & design process.”All the new construction and major renovation projects that we’ve been doing have been more environmentally focused,” UVM’s Green Building Coordinator Michelle Smith said. Of the five major projects completed since 2006, two received LEED silver and three, University Heights (2006), the Davis Center (2008) and the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Sciences (2008) have received LEED gold certification.As green buildings continue to become a university trend, UVM is ahead of the game in terms of “picking the low-hanging fruit,” Smith said. “We’re working on projects that have a five to ten year payback instead of just a one to three year payback,” Smith said.Green buildings generally have a higher capital cost, but if you plan and it’s part of the way you do business, it doesn’t have to be more expensive, she said.”Over the past seven years, we have borrowed dollars, long-term bonds [to pay for construction],” Director of Capital Planning and Management Robert Vaughan said. “We can’t keep that up.”Two years ago, the UVM administration implemented a policy that required all future building projects to have “an external fund component of at least 25 percent [of the capital cost],” before construction can begin, Vaughan said.This 25 percent can be grant money, federal money, donor dollars or any other kind of non-borrowed money.    Total borrowed money can’t exceed the University’s self-imposed debt capacity level of 6 percent of the year’s approved budget, Vaughan said. This year’s projected budget is $579 million. A list of 22 priority-ranked future construction and renovation projects called The Strategic Capital Plan 4.0 is the administration’s newest solution to figuring out where to focus the University’s efforts.Currently ranked number one is the Greening of Aiken — a $13 million major renovation to the School of Natural Resources’ building that has already been approved by two committees within the Board of Trustees. The Greening of Aiken project is in the design development stage with an architect, and will be presented at the next Board of Trustees meeting on October 23 to hopefully get approval to begin construction next summer, according to Vaughan.While a $93.9 million “multipurpose events center” ranked at 18 or a $15 million Davis Center theater addition ranked eight, are on the list, they may be a ways down the road.All the projects listed on the Strategic Capital Plan 4.0 address a need of the university, but most are not currently feasible to even consider, Vaughan said.