10.27.2009

If Scott Cowen Really Wants to Go Green...

...perhaps he should make a few more decisions in line with his rhetoric.

Recently, I received an email from the President touting his efforts to make the campus "go green" in a number of ways:

Last year I signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging, among other things, that Tulane would work toward carbon neutrality by balancing the amount of any carbon released with measures to reduce such emissions by an equivalent amount. My support was not driven by political correctness; instead, it was motivated by the fact that it was the right thing do for our campus and wider community. [...]


Meanwhile, we continue to reduce the university's energy use and environmental impact in other ways. For instance, new campus construction projects, such as the renovation of Dinwiddie Hall, are following the guidelines of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Green Building program.

Since he mentioned the institution's affiliation with the Green Building Council in relation to the renovation of Dinwiddie Hall - and it's mentioned on the campus green website as well - I thought it made sense to ask why the full range of green considerations seemingly haven't been brought to bear on another historic campus structure - the old Anthropology Building.  Perhaps the same economies of scale aren't involved.  Perhaps the prospect of FEMA money for demolition or reconstruciton is too tempting.  But as the maxim goes, the greenest building is the one that's already built:

The “Green Preservation” movement is concerned with something known as “Embodied Energy.” Basically, look at any building standing today: there was a lot of energy used to construct it. Energy to create the building materials, transport those materials, and physically construct the building, plus the use of equipment (bulldozers, cranes) and automobiles to transport workers to and from a site. That is a lot of energy – energy that is “embodied” in the building.


Now tear that building down.


All the embodied energy is lost.

Even if the Anthropology Building has some structural issues, I don't believe it has enough to warrant demolition - especially if the school, as outlined by President Cowen, truly wants be seen as living up to its own billing as a green institution:

The Sustainable Endowments Institute recently gave Tulane a "B" on its "College Sustainability Report Card for 2010." We won't stop working until we get an "A," but this is a good start.