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Financial Concerns Prevent Advanced Sustainability Initiatives in Lovell

Sophie Denny '24 News Editor
When the reconstruction of Lovell Hall was first announced, Sustainability Board (SusBo) heads Ingrid Slattery ’23 and Joy Xu ’23 and Energy subcommittee heads Anika Madan ’24 and Alix Rawald ’24 drafted a sustainability proposal for the new building.
 Says Slattery, “We kind of jumped in late just because we were really given a plan until so late in the process. But we still met with [Head of School] Matt Glendinning and tried to work in any elements of sustainability that we could. So, we focused on more last-minute things like electric car chargers, sustainably sourced concrete, or better lighting systems.” 

One of the elements lacking in the new building proposal is the Leading in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Environmental science and biology teacher Allison Mordas describes LEED certification as “a points-based system that encourages new building construction to adhere to more environmentally-friendly construction practices and building design. Major categories where one can earn points towards the tiered categories, include location, landscaping of the site water, efficiency, energy efficiency, pollutants outputs, materials used, indoor environmental quality, and organic and vernacular design elements.” There has been a push from faculty for LEED-certified buildings at Hopkins since the construction of Thompson Hall in 2010. Mordas recalls the last time there was an opportunity for LEED certification, “When Thompson was built, I know that Cilla Kellert (faculty in the History department) worked very hard with the administration (then run by Barbara Riley) to have a LEED certified builder involved. Obviously, that did not happen, and I was always told it was the additional cost of certification that was the primary barrier for the school. It should be noted that many of our peer schools and public school buildings have earned LEED certification.”  

As Mordas noted, Cilla Kellert, now retired, was the main force pushing for LEED certification for Thompson Hall. During her sabbatical in 2008, before the construction of Thompson began, Kellert completed extensive research on the sustainability of the Hopkins campus and created an environmental plan for the school to become a “green” school. A green school, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, is one that “begins with the future in mind, designing a learning experience for students that will prepare them to lead the world toward a healthier, cleaner, more sustainable future.” Kellert pushed for Hopkins to attain green school status, emphasizing that “If the school strives to educate students for a ‘lifelong love of learning, who embrace their responsibilities in the larger world’ as stated in the current mission statement, imbedded in this vision is a concern for the planet and its environmental sustainability.”  

Even after Kellert’s report was published, the Thompson building was not LEED certified. The building met some sustainability requirements, such as Indoor Air Quality standards, effective use of natural light, and low-flow faucets and toilets, but did not receive the certification. The Lovell construction approaches the concept of LEED certification in a similar way: meeting some criteria, but not all, and continuing construction without the LEED certification. Slattery said, “it is just too expensive to get the LEED certification, which is true – it is really expensive. So I think the thought was that we would meet the same criteria without getting the certification. However, I don’t believe that criteria is being met anyway. The school is just not used to planning with sustainability in mind first. If you don’t design with sustainability in mind first, it is going to be more expensive.”

The final building announcement does discuss the included sustainability factors: “The Center will also include many sustainable features such as environmentally conscious selection of furnishings, HVAC and plumbing systems, as well as the use of energy-efficient daylight – and motion – detecting LED lighting.” 
Slattery is hopeful that this problem can be solved in the future: “We are working on making an overall sustainability plan for the school. It is still very early stages but we are just trying to formalize SusBo’s relationship with the school, and then also explicitly state the school’s commitment to sustainability.

It is true that a bunch of other schools are much more invested in sustainability than Hopkins is, and so we think it would be good to clearly state our goals and enact a plan to reduce our impact on the environment.” 
Matt Glendinning also stresses the school’s commitment to incorporating sustainability into future plans: “We need to carefully balance a number of factors in how we take care of the campus, mainly cost, sustainability, and the quality of student experience.  When it comes to expense, we need to think in both the short and long term.  In other words, we need to constantly assess our needs as a school relative to the up front costs of sustainability features, and then compare that to the projected long-term savings generated by enhanced efficiency.  We’re committed to making this a part of our planning moving ahead.”
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Evie Doolittle
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Sam Cherry
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