December's Sustainability Champion: Andrew McBride
Andrew McBride is the Associate Vice President for Facilities and a University Architect. He has worked at University of Richmond since 1994 and received his LEED accreditation in 2002. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a standard for green building certification established by the US Green Building Council. Since 2007, University of Richmond has committed to all new buildings and major renovations on campus meeting LEED silver standards.
What initially sparked your interest in sustainability in architecture?
When I was in college, passive solar design was a big thing and the Passive Solar Handbook was published. That was very influential. I just felt like sustainable architecture made sense. For hundreds of years, architects were innovating and then I think things like air conditioning and cheap electricity made us a little lazy. I wanted to use those architectural strategies that had been developed that were actually more sustainable. Ultimately, I was very interested in reducing waste in architecture.
Can you describe your history with Green Buildings?
I've been a University architect here since 1994. In 2000 UR was in the process of developing the Campus Master Plan and one group of faculty and staff was very interested in using LEED standards for our buildings. Initially they wanted every building to meet LEED Gold qualifications. Eventually it was decided that we would strive for LEED standards but weren't required to get the buildings certified. So I got my LEED accreditation and the first building we got certified was Weinstein Hall. Weinstein was actually the second higher education building in all of Virginia to get LEED certified.
During that whole process, LEED was still very new to us and we had to figure out how to interpret the standards the building was required to meet. Out of a desire to better understand those standards, I started meeting with a group of eight other architects from around Richmond once a month to talk and learn from one another. We ended up founding the Central Virginia Green Building Council.
What's the process now for getting a new campus building LEED certified?
Since President Ayers signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment in 2007, all new buildings and major renovations on campus are required to meet LEED Silver standards. When we start a project, the design team meets to get a good understanding of what a specific building will be used for and what the occupants' needs will be and we consider the initial schematic drawings. Near the middle or end of the schematic development, we start the sustainability conversation. What green technologies could we use in this building? Is there anything major in the design, like using ground source heat pumps, that we should consider?
After that we'll consider the building plans next to the LEED scorecard to see what credits we can get, which credits we're borderline for, and where we need to adjust. Before the schematics are completely finished, we make sure that the design and construction teams are on the same page. Once the schematics are figured out, we move on to construction and we submit documentation and forms for LEED certification throughout the process. For some credits, though, the building must be occupied and then the occupants are surveyed. So we usually achieve our certifications 1-2 years after a building is finished.
How have LEED buildings impacted University of Richmond?
When we started pursuing LEED in 2003 with Weinstein Hall, we attempted the highest score we could get even though we weren't required to get the building certified. Because we have high standards for our buildings, it makes sense to pursue official recognition of that. Now LEED is standard on campus. I think LEED helps make people aware of sustainable buildings and the building case studies on the Office for Sustainability site help as well. I've also done a few presentations in classes about different buildings on campus. We still have room to grow as far as educating about green buildings on campus, though.
As an institution using LEED as a standard, we're leading other colleges and institutional builders. Ultimately I think sustainable building practices should be like seatbelt laws. When seatbelts became mandatory, some people were resistant, but now you buckle without even thinking about it. It should be the same for architecture, people should automatically design buildings sustainably.
How has your interest in sustainability impacted your life beyond your career?
I was involved in Boy Scouts as a child, and then later with my own sons, and there were a lot of lessons there about sustainability. In my house we're pretty serious about recycling and I know that's something the University is working on as well.
I also sail, and when you sail any significant distance you have to think about how to use the limited resources you're able to pack. So that's similar to thinking sustainably about other things, thinking about how to survive off of finite resources. I've got it in my head that I'll sail to the Caribbean one day. We'll see.
Thank you Andrew for all you do to make University of Richmond more sustainable!