Green Student Apartments

Dear President Fogel and UVM Administrators,

I was privileged to be able to hear an update today at an Environmental Council meeting on the new student apartments that are being planned near the Redstone Campus. As a UVM graduate student, I realize the importance of creating more housing opportunities on campus, and this sounds like a great project. Green Design Consultant Andy Shapiro was able to bring us up-to-date on the status of the planning process, and it’s exciting to hear that UVM is working with the Vermont Built Green program to incorporate environmental design features into these new buildings.

I strongly encourage UVM to pursue a LEED rating for these apartments. While UVM is considered a leader on many environmental fronts, greenbuilding has not been one of them. Having a LEED rated building would be a great promotional tool for the school, especially since it immediately impacts students and the quality of residential life. Across the country, colleges and universities are making the commitment to build all of their new construction to the LEED standard. Although the process may appear cumbersome and expensive, in the long run it will definitely be worth it.

I also support the use of vinyl-free windows in the new apartments. Vinyl windows are a polyvinyl chloride product that create toxic gases during their production and in the case of fire. The triple-glazed, fiberglass windows made by Accurate Doorwin are the best product on the market right now in terms of energy efficiency and durability. We installed them at the office of my previous employer, and over the past 3 years have had excellent results. In addition, as a student who is sensitive to the off-gassing of chemicals in buildings, and who frequently suffers from headaches and nausea as a result, I would strongly encourage you to build the apartments carpet-free. There are many alternatives available, including wood floors made from sustainable materials like cork and bamboo, as well as locally harvested hardwoods from here in Vermont. Linoleum and rubber flooring are also viable alternatives. Despite the low up-front costs of carpet, they have many hidden costs, including frequent replacement and disposal costs as well as human health costs as a result of off-gassing, mold and mildew.

I believe you’ll find that these sustainable design measures will pay for themselves in the long run and help UVM’s environmental image, which has many hidden benefits for the university.

Kate Stephenson
Department of Geography