by Kristin Ladd
When USU’s new College of Agricultural Sciences building was unveiled in February, the blue ribbons were cut, the cafe was opened, and students, after two years of waiting, finally got two see what $43.1 million could buy. USU architects chose only local stone and brick, with solar panels, to heat parts of the building. Floors were made out of only recyclable materials. The building sustains more than just the land-grant promise of USU’s farming founders. It encapsulates a way of life, both traditional and modern.
In 1888, Utah State University, one of the first land-grant institutions in the nation, answered to a different name: The Agricultural College of Utah. Then, USU’s students proudly called themselves “farmers,” not “Aggies.” Before there was Big Blue, there were real cows on campus. The university was the nexus of a much sleepier Logan. Though Logan may still be quieter than other college towns, the new College of Ag proves that neither Logan nor USU are going to equate being rural and agriculturally-based with being out-of-date.
Modern in design and aesthetic, the College of Ag also holds one of the most up-to-date titles. It is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Aiming to achieve LEED Silver — just below Gold, Platinum, and Net Zero — it is currently calculated that the building may reach LEED Gold standards, a first for USU and most campuses in Utah.
With such accolades already buzzing around the college, it is clear that the building was constructed to set a precedent that also follows tradition. When USU was still the Agricultural College of Utah, most students were interested in knowing how to be in harmony with the land, their farms, their crops — the beauty of Cache Valley. “Farmers” were able to do so — yet, in their expansion of the campus over time, their buildings grew incongruous to the harmony they sought.
According to the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) educational website, CSA.com, “…buildings are the largest consumers of energy worldwide. In the United States, buildings account for 37 percent of all energy use and 68 percent of all electricity use” and “the building trades do about six times more damage than automobiles in terms of energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.” Such energy use is damaging to our health and the health of the environment. “Unhealthy” or old buildings are becoming as outdated as the cassette tape. As Jordy Guth, a USU architect on the Sustainability Council, put it, “If you want to have a job as an architect in 2012, you better be LEED certified.” In other words, if you do not know how to be the most water efficient, use the most cost-effective materials, create energy-efficient, motion-sensored lighting or use thermal and solar energy to heat buildings that ultimately save the contractor money while also meeting the most modern building standards — well, you might as well find another career. This goes not only for architects. As was noted at the Green Jobs Panel during USU’s Earth Week, all companies are looking for ways to save money and look good. Being a green-minded employee is one way to show your company how to do that (thus making you stand out to earn more “green” as well).
The materials in “unhealthy” buildings contain toxic chemicals, have out-of-date heating, contain electricity systems that stay on all the time and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at alarming rates, according to the USGBC. As campus continues to grow, university administration has committed to only allowing the erection of LEED certified buildings or retrofitting old buildings to be more energy efficient, according to the USU Sustainability Council. It saves the university money and takes them into the modern age. A harbinger, the College of Ag leads with its lowest carbon footprint forward.
At the April 11, 2012, building tour — during USU’s first annual Earth Week — architects informed more than 45 faculty and student attendees that the building’s facade fit the landscape. Made from red- and peach-toned limestone from Colorado, it provides a perfect local, Western, yet contemporary feel that harmonizes with the surrounding landscape and the gradients of green-toned glass, solar panels and bamboo that lines the inside of the building. After passing through the local-only cafe, tour attendees were led up a beautiful staircase past a simple and elegant hanging sculpture that draws the eyes upward. Floor-to-ceiling windows fill the building with sunlight, calling for little need of artificial light fixtures. The windows also take full advantage of the mountains and farmland, decorating the interior with natural beauty that any “farmer” or “Aggie” would know intimately.
With just the right balance of traditional, ag-based love for the earth and environmentally modern tones, the building is an addition to the campus that all students, whether in the College of Ag or not, should make time to appreciate. As the weather grows warmer, so the sun streaming into the windows calls one to eat some Sunshine and Chocolate Aggie Ice Cream while sitting at the Ag Cafe counter. A bit of Norman Rockwell-esque feelings will coalesce with the red rock (and recycling bins) that line the side of the door. And any true Aggie can walk home knowing that they’ve just breathed healthier air, supported their local farmers, and witnessed a new point of Aggie pride.
Kristin Ladd is earning her MA in American Studies at Utah State University. She is also the Campus Outreach intern for the Student Sustainability Office and hopes to work in Environmental Education when she completes her degree in 2013.
“$43.1 million” – USU Press Release, http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/news/local/Utah-State-opening-43M-agriculture-building-140889623.html
“Farmers” original mascot/name of the Aggies when they were University of Agriculture – http://www.usu.edu/about/traditions/
USGBC Quotes: Article written by Ethan Goffman http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/green/review.php