Attendees of the Community Briefing review exhibits highlighting UVA’s environmental projects

All new buildings constructed at the

University of Virginia

will be built to LEED certification. A transportation demand management plan will reduce car traffic coming to Central Grounds. Efforts to save water and electricity will be continued, resulting in a lower environmental impact and increased cost savings.

These are just three of the ways in which the University of Virginia is changing its culture to reflect a new commitment to becoming a more sustainable part of the community. They were presented as part of UVA’s Community Briefing, an annual event in which the school updates the public. This year, sustainability was chosen as the focus of the briefing.

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Leonard Sandridge, UVA’s Chief Operating Officer, says the administration’s efforts to promote sustainability are not a one-time project. “It’s not something we’re going to start and finish, but rather what we are promoting is a culture,” he said.

The University’s

sustainability plan

(.PDF) is being used as a road map to guide the various changes, which he says are realistic and achievable. But Sandridge seemed most pleased with what he called the “quiet leadership” that various UVA departments have been undertaking to push the issue.

“There have been water conversation programs, storm water management, recycling and public transportation initiatives that have singled us out from the competition,” adding that these grass-roots efforts are becoming part of the culture UVA is trying to build.

Implementation of these initiatives is the responsibility of David Neuman, the

University Architect

. His office is currently developing a new Grounds Plan to guide planning for the next hundred years. It will include for the first time a comprehensive biohabitat survey of more than 5,000 acres owned and managed by the University and its foundation.

All new buildings to be constructed at UVA will be to

LEED certification

, including the new Emily Couric Cancer Center, the Claude Moore Medical Educational Building, and the various structures of the massive South Lawn Project. Neuman says this will add about three percent to the cost of each, but that the savings in energy will be worth it.

The new master plan will also focus heavily on connectivity, and the importance of giving people more choices to get from one place to the other. Neuman said the University will seek to replicate the pattern of the Lawn, where residential, classroom, and other uses co-exist in a tight footprint. He suggested using the railroads through the area as a way of improving the ability of getting around, and also in designing better bikeways and sidewalks. That will take close cooperation with planning staff in the county and city.

“The notion that we have artificial boundaries between any of these jurisdictions has to be forgotten when it comes to sustainability,” Neuman said.

Rebecca White, Director of Parking and Transportation, said her department is currently designing a Transportation Demand Management plan to help reduce the number of people who get to UVA in a single occupancy vehicle. Elements of the plan include coupling transportation planning with parking management, investment in alternative modes of transportation, and identifying where employees and students live using geocoded data.

“We have the opportunity now to assess commuting patterns, and these data start telling us how we can match transportation alternatives,” she said. “It’s a very systemic and strategic way to measure your impact on the environment.”

Potential strategies which may be included in the plan include preferential parking for carpools, encouraging human resources departments to allow for flexible work-times, and car-sharing. White says this last strategy helped the University of North Carolina replace much of its fleet of state-owned vehicles.

University officials created

this map

(.PDF) to make it easier to get around Grounds without a car

White also said marketing existing programs is one piece of the puzzle. She explained the recent decision by the Charlottesville Transit Service to offer free rides to anyone with a UVA ID card is paying off, leading to an average of 10,000 extra riders per month on CTS routes. White says UVA is also participating more in the efforts to create a regional transit authority.

One piece of becoming sustainable is to reduce energy consumption and to conserve the use of water. That’s happening at UVA, according to Chief Facilities Officer Don Sundgren. For example, he claimed the University saved 70,000 tons of carbon emissions in 2006. The University is also saving more water, too. Sundgren says in 2006, 13,000 gallons were consumed per person, down from 23,000 in 1999.

Small steps such as switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs are beginning to pay dividends, by using less energy to light buildings.

“Programs in energy conservation and recycling have resulted in almost six million dollars in savings in the last academic year alone,” said Ida Lee Wootten, the Community Relations director.

You can track the latest in UVA’s efforts at

their new website devoted to the issue


Sean Tubbs


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