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Green Building Institute Emphasizes the Importance of Sustainability

The purpose of the Green Building Institute at Farmingdale State College is to educate people about sustainable building.

The Green Building Institute (GBI) at was initiated by Dr. W. Hubert Keen, the college’s president, with the help of Rep. Steve Israel, who provided seed money for it from the U.S. Department of Education.

The GBI’s initial purpose was to enable the college to stress the importance of green building into the curriculum at every level.

“In the beginning the main emphasis was to create ecological development in the college, whose main focus is applied sciences," said Dr. Amit Bandyopadhyay, who heads the Green Building Institute Advisory Committee and is project director. He’s also chair of the college’s department of architecture and construction management. "So it was natural to teach sustainable technologies and their application. It’s part of the college’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. It wasn’t created to green the campus, nor was it created to be a policy institute."

The GBI’s primary goal, according to Bandyopadhyay, was to teach students the technical aspects of green building and sustainability at the college level. So far, it’s been successful.

“The first step was to infuse sustainability into as many courses as possible throughout the college," he said. 'So far, 12-14 courses already include this as part of the curriculum, and they’re across all majors [like] electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, horticulture, security systems and even math courses. And, of course, it’s included in architecture and construction management."

The GBI Advisory Committee also includes Steven Bellone, supervisor of the Town of Babylon; Sammy Chu, director of the Long Island Green Homes Initiative by the Town of Babylon; Jennifer Pastrich, liaison to the office of Congressman Israel; Joseph Schroeder, energy specialist at the Suffolk County Legislature; Paul Meyer of Horizon Engineering; Russell Albanese of Albanese Organization; John Molloy of H2M Corp.; and Sarah Lansdale, executive director of Sustainable Long Island.

“There are no plans for a major yet because the focus is to affect various curricula,” he added.

The next is to educate building professionals – specifically, engineers, project managers, architects and builders. To that end, the GBI will partner again with the Long Island Builders Institute (LIBI) for a conference this March aimed at reaching the residential market.

“This is the second educational session for residential builders through the LIBI, which is part of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The first one was in Fall 2010,” Bandyopadhyay said. “In Spring 2010 we held an educational session for commercial builders through the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), Long Island chapter.”

The hope, he said, is to eventually extend education to the users –  homeowners and commercial property owners and managers − about the benefits of building sustainably and how such energy-efficient alternatives as switching to fluorescent light bulbs, replacing old, drafty windows with new ones and using low-flow showerheads and toilets can be kinder to the environment, and to their wallets, in the long run.

“We’d like to create some educational seminars at the college for people to take, but that’s a goal for 2012,” Bandyopadhyay said.

In the meantime the GBI is also reaching out to high schools to get students interested in sustainability via education.

“We want to develop a green sustainable high school curriculum. Research has found that if this is taught at the high school level, then there’s more interest at the college level,” he said. “However, we want to be cautious. Green has become a bit of a cliché in the media, and we don’t want to get into propaganda.”

The GBI is taking it slowly, and has only just started talking to high schools – mainly faculty members. Currently the GBI is working with Eastern Suffolk BOCES, Long Island Works Coalition, and East Islip, and started talking with Central Islip, which expressed interest. They have also held seminars for faculty members, and have invited faculty from other schools to come.

In fact, the GBI is also inviting peer review. “We had 11 presentations at a regional conference by faculty members so we could not only get the word out about what we’re doing, but also to get feedback about what we’re doing right, and wrong,” he said.

Overall, he’s proud of what the GBI has done thus far.

“We’ve made excellent progress in curriculum development, and have exceeded our promises to the Department of Education. In the area of engineering and architecture, we’ve met our goals,” he said. “We’ve addressed commercial buildings and residential homes, and our involvement with the high schools is on-going. We’re learning many things from our dialogue with them, and with commercial and residential builders, architects and designers.”

What’s next for the GBI?

More immediately, in addition to the conference planned with the LIBI in March, they'll be hosting a regional conference on sustainability in engineering and technology education April 29-30 through the American Society of Engineering Education.

Long-term, he said the GBI will continue to “encourage and aid in the design and construction of buildings on Long Island that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of structures on the environment.”

Areas of focus will also continue to include alternative energy, alternative construction, architectural design, storm water management, green roofs and green walls, HVAC/energy management, electrical engineering and testing of “low-emitting” building materials with regard to air quality and industrial hygiene.

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