The doors of the Central Campus Recreation Building (CCRB), the largest recreational sports facility on campus, closed for good Friday afternoon. Students exited the large dance studios, climbed out of the indoor pool and stepped off the treadmills lining the walls of the recreation center for the last time. As the University of Michigan sets up the Palmer Field Temporary Facility that will replace the gymnasium during its construction, some students have raised concerns about the sustainability of the construction of the new CCRB.
The U-M student chapter of Fridays for Future, an activist organization working to forward the climate action movement, is circulating a petition in hopes to raise support for increased sustainability in the construction of the new CCRB. The petition’s main points include using sustainable building materials, increasing solar energy use within the building and more accountability when communicating carbon neutrality goals. The petition also calls for a “green roof” on the new CCRB and the installation of solar panels. According to Brendan Ireland, Engineering senior and author of the petition, the petition has a combined 942 written and online signatures as of Dec. 7.
A number of other sustainability-focused student organizations have expressed support for the petition. LSA junior Jacob Sendra, the vice president of the U-M student chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, one of the organizations advocating for the petition. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Sendra said he was involved in creating the petition and explained the rationale behind it.
“We created the petition because we saw the CCRB as a great example of how the University does a lot of talking about how green everything’s going to be, but doesn’t necessarily always follow through with construction,” Sendra said. “(Though the planning for the new CCRB is done now), we’re really highlighting the fact that we want to get more sustainable building methods in the master plan going forward so we can live up to a lot of the ways that we talk about sustainability with the administration.”
Ireland is also the president of the U-M student chapter of the Sierra Club, a member of the Student Sustainability Coalition (SSC) and one of the founders of Fridays for Future. Ireland told The Daily many climate advocacy groups felt this petition was important and hopes to see it spark change on a community level.
“This was something that I helped to author,” Ireland said. “(This petition) represents a desire of environmental groups who all felt that there was a lot of work to be done, but that the work needed more organization than just one group to actually get anything moving. … These points kind of emerged as very specific ways that the University could advance carbon neutrality goals.”
Ireland also spoke about the University’s carbon neutrality plan, in which the University committed to eliminating direct, on-campus carbon emissions (Scope 1) by 2040 and achieving net-zero emissions from purchased power (Scope 2) by 2025. The plan also involves creating goals to eliminate indirect emissions (Scope 3) by 2025. Ireland said he believes the University should devote more consideration to the impact of Scope 3 emissions.
“We started talking about building standards and how 97.8% of all (Scope 1 and 2) emissions on all three campuses come from Ann Arbor buildings – whether that’s electricity or the power generation that we produce on campus,” Ireland said. “So, it’s a very, very big area for addressing how to actually achieve carbon neutrality.”
In an interview with The Daily, Lashaun Jackson, LSA junior and co-president of the SSC, said she believes it’s important to consider how tearing down the current CCRB building will contribute to the project’s environmental impact. Jackson spoke specifically about embodied carbon, which includes any carbon dioxide created during the manufacturing and transport of building materials, as well as during construction practices.
“We want to reduce embodied carbon, so like what points one and two (on the petition) say, (and) just incorporate low carbon steel and low carbon concrete into the CCRB …” Jackson said. “… what a lot of people don’t recognize is that the carbon emissions, or the carbon footprint, of producing the materials that go into buildings is a part of its entire environmental footprint.”
Recreational Sports Director Michael Widen wrote in an email to The Daily that the Recreational Sports department is keeping sustainability in mind while starting construction of the new CCRB.
“The CCRB project is one of a series of facility improvements in Recreational Sports that have occurred since 2014,” Widen wrote. “Every project that we’ve done in Recreational Sports has sustainability as one of its goals. During the CCRB planning process, a number of sustainability measures were included in the project. Many of those are part of U-M building standards that help campus meet sustainability goals.”
Widen wrote that since the CCRB’s construction was in 1976, the building’s current systems and materials are not efficient and sustainable. He said Recreational Sports plans to incorporate sustainability by implementing a more energy efficient air and water treatment system, a building design that incorporates the use of natural light, sustainable and efficient construction and building materials and dedicated bike and scooter parking areas.
Widen said the building will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver levels, which is a certification that takes into account environmental sustainability of real estate, and could potentially meet LEED Gold levels as well.
Ireland said he ultimately hopes that the University uses the construction of the new CCRB as an opportunity to make it a standard for all new building construction.
“The goal (of this petition) is to make it a standard for all construction,” Ireland said. “In learning more about the bureaucracy and the way that these projects are built – because the budget is already approved and they’re about to break ground in the CCRB – it’s not really super feasible to think that that will change. However, it’s a great example of what should have changed a while ago.”
In the beginning of November, Fridays for Future set up a table outside the CCRB to promote the petition, in addition to linking the petition and the Google Form in various U-M newsletters. This past week, Ireland said he and other advocates for the petition would be attending the Board of Regents meeting to present the petition to the regents.
“This petition is not something that we want to be a divisive thing,” Ireland said. “We want this to be a collaborative effort, where we’re both working towards the same goals. And just having the petition be evidence of students’ willingness to do work there and to show that that’s what students want to see.”
Jackson said four students involved with sustainability organizations are signed up to make public comments and will speak about the petition Thursday. She said student sustainability leaders from across campus, including herself, will meet with undisclosed high level-figures to discuss the petition and transparency and accountability from the University regarding its sustainability efforts.
Daily News Editor Rachel Mintz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.