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Columbia College Chicago
Buildings and Energy
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Buildings and Energy


Columbia owns and occupies 15 buildings (over 1,515,558 square feet) concentrated in the South Loop. All of our buildings except our Media Production Center are adaptively-reused former office and warehouse buildings.

The downside to reusing old buildings, however, is that they are energy inefficient.  We have been steadily improving our energy efficiencies over the past several years with such projects as retrofitting our lighting fixtures and installing occupancy sensors.  Where we have replaced heating and air conditioning equipment, we have significantly reduced energy consumption.

What are we doing?

The Campus Engineers working through the Office of Facilities and Operations have made tremendous strides in creating a more sustainable classroom environment. 

  • They have installed a Building Automation System to efficiently control campus HVAC covering over 50% of campus square footage.
  • They have installed Water Bottle Refilling Stations on campus. See locations here.
  • They are undergoing Retrocommissioning projects with our utilities providers to find areas where energy saving measures can be implemented.

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The Office of Facilities and Operations has developed a 5-year capital plan for campus construction and renovation projects that will affect the college’s overall emissions. These projects will focus on boiler and HVAC improvements and window replacements. Each of these projects will result in increased efficiency in our buildings.

The energy projects for the 5-year capital plan will include:

  • 33 E. Congress window replacements scheduled in 2013
  • 600 S. Michigan Ave. and 624 S. Michigan Ave. window replacements in 2014
  • 72 E. 11th St. HVAC improvements scheduled in 2014
  • 600 S. Michigan Ave. HVAC replacements scheduled in 2015
  • 33 E. Congress HVAC upgrades scheduled in 2015
  • 618 S. Michigan Ave. 2nd floor auditorium HVAC replacement scheduled in 2016
  • 1104 S. Wabash Ave. HVAC and boiler upgrades scheduled in 2016

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LEED Certification
Columbia’s first constructed building, the LEED Gold-Certified Media Production Center, is a shining example of functional innovation and sustainability. It was built on a formerly environmentally contaminated site that was cleaned in advance of construction.

The college conducted a LEED-EB project for the 5th floor at our location 33 E. Congress location.

These LEED projects met the certification checklist by including low-flow toilets, hand sensors on sinks, use of natural lighting, low VOC paint and carpeting, and placement of recycling bins.

The college believes in the ideals of efficient construction. All other campus construction projects use the LEED certification checklist even if not applying for LEED certification.
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Green Spaces
There are two campus green roofs covering more than 20,000 square feet. Roofs are located at 33 E. Congress and 1600 S. State St. The green roofs contain plants in the sedum family. The benefits of having a green roof include reducing the urban heat island effect which absorbs solar heat adding to less internal cooling. The roofs also absorb carbon from the atmosphere and reduce storm water runoff.

Columbia also has a Native Sculpture Garden located at 11th Street and Wabash. Native plants are great for maintaining a balanced ecosystem and are more likely to thrive under local environmental conditions. The college’s Sustainability Green Space Coordinator manages this space and uses environmentally friend pest control methods and energy efficient equipment such as a battery powered weed trimmer and a manually powered mower.
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Green Cleaning
Columbia has a Green Cleaning Policy for the purpose of improving the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) for the health and environmental profile of the campus, making it safer by reducing the exposure of our students, employees and maintenance personnel to potentially hazardous chemical, biological and particulate contaminants. This includes green substitutes for supplies used. Waste minimization has been considered through the reduction of quantities purchased, ordering large roll toilet tissue and removing paper towels from locations with hand driers.
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Health and Safety
Columbia has drafted health and safety plans to best address the potential hazards on campus. Our Chemical Hygiene Plan addresses our laboratory spaces on campus. We have campus wide plans including a Fire Prevention Plan, Hazardous Communication, and Waste Minimization and Management plan. In 2012, the Office of Safety and Security created the position of Environmental Health and Safety Manager. This position oversees environmental disposal of hazardous waste, indoor air quality issues and ensuring the college is meeting OSHA requirements.
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Buildings and Energy Green Team
As part of the Sustainability Roadmap, Columbia has created a Green Team for Buildings and Energy. The team members consist of engineering and facilities staff. Below are some of the ideal goals and actions for this team.

The Buildings and Energy Green Team's Goals:

Continue to strengthen environmental safety in the areas of air quality and chemical hygiene, including adopting an indoor air quality management policy to include monitoring and a mechanism for occupants to register complaints; auditing our Chemical Hygiene Plan; working with our Environmental Health and Safety coordinator.
  • Reduce overall energy usage by 1% by 2017.
  • Continue to implement sustainable operations and maintenance procedures wherever possible.
  • Develop longer-term, campus-wide projections based on ECM analysis.
  • Research and secure appropriate available financial incentives from private and public sources.

 The Buildings and Energy Green Team's Actions:

  • Structure, analyze and make projections for ECMs in the campus’ Five Year Plan.
  • Define and adopt an indoor air quality management policy to include monitoring and a mechanism for occupants to register complaints.

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