Brock University sits in the heart of the Niagara Peninsula, a region rich in natural beauty and home to a growing environmental awareness. Tom Saint-Ivany, associate vice president of facilities management, talks about the steps Brock has taken to ensure it is a good neighbour as the university’s campus expands.
Brock University was established in 1964. We’re located in the southern part of the city of St. Catharines, Ontario, in a beautiful setting on top of the Niagara Escarpment. We’re also in the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario and within a UNESCO-designated biosphere. That means there is certain significant, natural vegetation, and there is a unique microclimate as well. As a result, environmental stewardship is of great interest to many people in the area.
We’re one of the most underspaced universities in Ontario. We’ve had an aggressive building program to improve that, but we’re doing it all in the context of minimizing the environmental impact. For example, there’s a portion of the university where we must have a permit for development from the Niagara Escarpment Commission to ensure that we follow the guidelines for land use. In general, we try to keep our buildings fairly close together, and if anything is being displaced, it is parking—and not trees and other natural vegetation.
In 2009, we formed a Sustainability Coordinating Committee. It brings together on a regular basis the various administrative and academic groups to collaborate on sustainable initiatives and report on progress. For example, our custodial services that look after non-hazardous-waste management annually report on waste-audit results. But it’s also to enable participation in each other’s initiatives, so it’s a sharing of ideas and ways that a unit or faculty can help one another in terms of sustainability goals.
We joined the Niagara Sustainability Initiative in 2011. It’s a regional plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions progressively over a 10-year period. Our target at Brock is a 20 percent reduction to our 2012 baseline, which we’re just starting to establish. In light of our commitment to the Niagara Sustainability Initiative, we’ll strive to reduce emissions in other areas to offset any increases from new development.
Even before all of this, Brock was ahead of its time. In the early 1990s, a natural-gas-fired cogeneration plant was constructed to power, heat, and cool the university. Up until recently, we were able to supply the majority of the main campus’s needs with that plant, but as the university has grown, we’ve had to rely on other sources. We’ve also installed LED street lighting on a progressive basis. We have a very active recycling program to divert as much as we can from landfills, and we’re looking at expanding our organic programs as well.
As we grow, all new construction is designed to LEED Silver standards. It’s a mixture of all the LEED strategies with the exception of green roofs. We endeavour to use local materials, we include water-saving devices, and we have greywater systems. Our Plaza Building—completed in 2007 to house classrooms, our campus store, faculty offices, and the Jack and Nora Walker Canadian Centre for Lifespan Development Research—is LEED Silver certified. Our International Building—which houses language services, the classics department, seminar rooms, a small museum, and typical student and faculty lounges—was completed in 2010 and is pending certification for LEED Silver. Our newest building, the Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex, is targeting LEED Silver and will open this summer.
There’s a lot of support for these green strategies from the faculty and administration. The Brock Environmental Sustainability Research Unit, a transdisciplinary unit, has been established by a number of faculty for environmental/sustainability research. Certainly there’s been a lot of support from the administration for the new construction we’ve undertaken to improve and increase space.