By Christa Hillmer – Contributor
During a recent visit to Mammel Hall, UNO’s Environmental Advocate and Sustainability Champion Patrick Wheeler focused on a group of computers.
“I’m not sure why all those [computer] monitors are on,” he said. “They could probably power off the ones they’re not using.”
While he applauds the sustainable construction and design of the College of Business Administration’s new building, Wheeler emphasizes the importance of continued sustainable practices by its occupants.
“It’s an opportunity for us to do some good things,” he said. “It’s not just a ‘green’ thing – they’re issues of need.”
Mammel Hall was designed and built to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines. LEED was created by the U.S. Green Building Council to oversee the design, construction and operation of sustainable buildings, according to Green UNO’s website.
CBA dean Louis Pol and Carl Mammel, the primary donors for the construction of Mammel Hall, were responsible for making the building a LEED project.
“They’re not the type of people who typically throw money at projects just so they can feel good about themselves,” Wheeler said. “There has to be a business payback or a legitimate need.”
Making a building sustainable is more costly than using traditional construction.
“UNO has never torn down an academic building,” Wheeler said. “Even though it costs more dollars upfront, I would argue that in a case like this where we have an academic building, spending a little more money upfront [and] making sure that we do the best job that we can [is important] because we’re going reap the benefits for 70 years.”
Applying to LEED is also more time-consuming than using traditional construction because the building design must be approved prior to the project. It also requires inspection after completion to ensure it meets the design’s proposed expectations.
Wheeler said that making a building sustainable is important because it contributes to the health of its occupants.
Mammel Hall’s sustainable design will also save the college money over time, especially in maintenance. The building’s design elements include the building’s orientation to the sun, windows that let in natural light, directional air diffusers, modular carpet squares and landscaping that preserves water, all of which save money and energy.
Mammel Hall is meant to be low-maintenance.
“We want to have a connection with nature,” Wheeler said.
Bike racks installed outside Mammel Hall encourage environmentally friendly transportation. The bike racks, designed by Omaha sculptor Les Brunning, are painted black and red with an image of the UNO Maverick on each end.
UNO student John West uses the bike racks daily. On a recent Thursday afternoon, his bike was one of two parked outside the building.
“In warmer weather, there would be 10 to 20 bikes out here,” West said. “We even had the [UNO] Bike Share bikes down here.”
Wheeler recognizes that continued sustainability requires the participation of UNO faculty, students and staff.
“We all share a planet, we all share resources, and we all like good health,” he said. “Mammel Hall is an excellent physical manifestation of what we can do [for sustainability].”
Wheeler also noted the presence of elevators, or lack thereof, in the overall energy-saving design.
“There’s an elevator, but it’s kind of out of the way,” he said, chuckling as he pointed toward the elevator at the western end of the building. “I think they want people to use the stairs.”