Long Beach State wants to be off the grid in nine years.

No, the university isn’t going into hiding; that would be a challenge, seeing as it encompasses more than 300 acres. But three years ago, President Jane Close Conoley created the President’s Commission on Sustainability, enlisting campus and community members to advise her on strategies required to meet the promise of carbon neutrality.

“Every decision we make on campus is informed by our commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030,” Conoley wrote in October 2020 in the Grunion Gazette. “We know we can’t reverse climate change from just our 320 acres, but we are part of a network of more than 600 universities worldwide that have pledged to mitigate climate change and become resilient to the extremes caused by the changes.”

From solar panels in one of the university’s parking lots to recycling trash cans around campus, the university has embraced Conoley’s vision.

Parkside North Housing is scheduled to be completed this summer for students to move into for the fall 2021 semester. The student housing and a housing administration building are the first projects in the California State University system of 23 campuses to be certified under the rigorous Living Building Challenge standards.

The dormitory, which will have 476 beds, is at the corner of Atherton Street and Earl Warren Drive. Mark Zakhour, the university’s director of Design and Construction Services, told the Press-Telegram that it has been 30 years since the school has built new student housing on campus.

“This is a long time coming,” Zakhour said. “We have housing that is really old, so we need to start updating and replacing our housing.”

Cal State’s policy requires all new buildings and any major renovations to meet or exceed the minimum requirements set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Level standard. An example of exceeding that Silver Level is the Liberal Arts 4 building, which has been certified as a Gold Level building. LA 4 houses the Department of Journalism and Public Relations.

According to the university’s Commission on Sustainability website, the LEED system provides guidelines on green building practices, materials and technologies that conserve energy and water and create healthy spaces that are beneficial to working and learning.

Parkside North is being designed to not only minimize energy consumption but to use only as much energy as can be generated from renewable energy sources such as solar panels.

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., based in Los Angeles, won the bid to build the new dormitory. Nate Ray, the project director for McCarthy, said the company has had numerous meeting with the university’s facilities and construction groups to assure that Parkside North will have a more modern look.

“This dormitory has some real unique elements to it, but the exterior will have a red brick look so from the outside it has the same appearance as existing residence halls,” Ray said.

McCarthy has been tasked to construct a building that not only meets the Living Building Challenge but also be certified as LEED Platinum. And to be LEED Platinum, Ray said the company must use recycled products that use materials made within 500 miles and not flown in from other countries.

“Being LEED Platinum is a whole other level of sustainability requirements,” Ray said. “There are only 23 LEED Platinum buildings in the world and only three in Southern California. This is an aggressive goal for the campus.”

Ray said all the bathrooms in the dormitory will be using reclaimed water as opposed to potable water, something that construction companies have been doing for only the last two or three years. Also, all rooms will have state-of-the-art temperature controls with upgraded WiFi.

“The campus is being cutting edge and leaders in the Cal State system, and the net zero goal is very admirable as well as being the first residence hall in 30 years.” Ray said.


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