Part I: History of Sustainability

Sustainability has been a core focus of the Student Experience Center since the building’s inception.

The OSU Sustainability office, SEC designers, and SEC architects have integrated sustainability values through building features and design as a gathering place for students and the OSU community. The space is designed to be open and inclusive, creating an environment for innovative collaborations to emerge.

Student leaders joined the SEC design team in August 2012 for a Sustainability Workshop to develop priorities for the building. Priorities included using the building as a teaching tool, cultivating a demonstration garden, visibly reclaiming rainwater, using local building materials, and heating water with solar energy.

As the project developed, the Student Sustainability Initiative committed Student Fee funds from their budget to finance infrastructure investments to model sustainable building and achieve LEED Gold certification.

The SEC design committee has been working for years to create an atmosphere of social, economic, and environmental sustainability in the SEC by developing the building as a living laboratory. As SEC employees, it’s our job to uphold this vision, leading by example through our daily habits and programming, demonstrating our commitment to #beBeaverBold.


What does a living laboratory for sustainability look like?

AASHE describes a living laboratory as “…a given place where problem-based teaching, research and applied work combine to develop actionable solutions that make that place more sustainable.”

The ideal living lab combines academics, research, operations and student engagement.


The SEC as a living lab

The SEC is a hands-on learning environment and a model for a sustainable office environment. Building features include rooftop solar panels, a stormwater treatment system, efficient room temperature controls, natural lighting, and efficient water features.

Water, energy, and steam heat in the building are being tracked in real time, and students have access to the data through an interactive Sustainability Screen on the first floor. Check out the screen to see how much carbon we’re saving each week.


You can make a difference every day

Small efforts add up. Keep these quick tips in mind for a more sustainable workplace.

  • Take advantage of the daylight: Turn off all lights during the daylight hours to save energy.
  • Go reusable: Use reusable cups and bottles for all your beverages.
  • Put computers to sleep: Even screensavers waste energy.
  • Take the stairs: Skip the elevator to save energy.
  • Use that thermostat: Between 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit is the most energy-efficient temperature.
  • Unplug it: Don’t let vampire energy persist.
  • Compost: Reduce food waste by composting unfinished food in your kitchen bin.
  • Print on both sides: Save trees, water, and office resources.


Part 2: Sustainable Building Features

From the start, the SEC was intended to be a sustainable LEED-qualified building. To meet the needs and goals of the students, staff, and faculty, the architecture team went to great lengths so that the building would be sustainable and useable. This section highlights these beautiful and inspiring features.

Reclaimed lumber

Heritage elm, walnut, and red oak trees were salvaged from the campus and were dried in a solar kiln and milled into custom shapes. The salvaged campus trees were diverted from the landfill for chipping, and have instead been repurposed for use in the building. The woodwork was designed, fabricated, and installed by Oregon teams, connecting us to the natural history of the campus.

Indoor Air Quality

The air you breathe in the Student Experience Center should smell fresh and clean. A variety of strategies are used to keep typical impurities out of the building. The construction process is dusty and often involves the use of toxic substances, so the contractor followed an indoor air quality management plan to protect the building from contamination.

Paints, sealants and carpet were selected based on their low-VOC content, and at the end of construction the building was flushed with fresh air for several weeks to remove remaining particles and gases. The air ventilation system continues to bring in high levels of outside air in order to dilute the level of pollutants introduced by the occupants and their belongings.

Edible Garden

Located at the southeast corner of the building is an edible landscape of artichokes, coast strawberries, lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, sunshine blueberry, and evergreen huckleberry. Eating locally grown foods is beneficial in many ways – because travel time is shorter between harvest and your table, locally grown food is full of flavor and contains abundant nutrients.

The money that is spent with the farmers and growers stays close to home and is reinvested with businesses and services in your community. Local produce can also contribute to better food security for populations that have limited access to healthy food.

Indoor Water Savings

The Student Experience Center is designed to use 36 percent less indoor water compared to a conventional building. At an estimated 187,000 gallons per year, the water savings from the SEC could provide enough water for 10,872 showers or 9,350 pints of beer.

Did you know that all water is recycled? We drink the same water that the dinosaurs did. It takes large amounts of energy to produce and transport clean water and to process waste water, so conservation is important even in rainy areas like the Pacific Northwest.

Radiant Ceiling System

The white ceiling clouds condition the building through efficient radiant heating and cooling. Hot or cold water circulates through concealed copper tubing on the back of the panels, providing heating and cooling with minimal air ventilation requirements.

Radiant ceilings work through direct energy transfer between the metal panels and the room surfaces. Radiant heating is the effect you feel when you experience the warmth of a hot stovetop from several feet away without blowing air.

Active Chilled Beams

Active chilled beams use chilled water in tubes to move cooling energy around the building, a more efficient way to transport cooling than air. Unconditioned air arrives separately in ducts, passes over the tubes directly overhead, and transfers the cooling to the space below – exactly where it is needed. In the Student Experience Center, the active chilled beams used in the lobby and at the open stairs contribute to greater energy savings, lower noise levels, better thermal comfort and higher air quality.

Comprehensive Transportation Approach

From requiring more roads and parking lots to the burning of fossil fuels that degrade air quality and release greenhouse gasses, cars have an enormous environmental impact. The high population density of a college campus is a great fit for alternative transportation.

OSU takes a comprehensive approach for alternative transportation that addresses cycling, walking, public transit and car sharing. At the Student Experience Center, a new electric vehicle charging station and 110 new bike racks where added to promote alternative transportation methods.

A Bicycle Fix-It station is located at the back of the building between the library and the Agriculture building. The fix-it station is equipped with various tools and an air pump, so your bike is always ready to go.

Celebrating and Cleaning Stormwater

Stormwater is not clean water! Stormwater runoff often carries pollutants such as sediment, phosphorous, microorganisms, and other toxic chemicals that seriously harm our waters. The Student Sustainability Initiative provided funds for a stormwater treatment system that exceeds city water treatment standards.

How it works: The curving steel and glass canopy outside the Student Experience Center directs water to four wire mesh downspouts and screens where the water trickles down and is then captured in the sculpted concrete basin. The water is then directed to an onsite treatment structure for cleansing before moving on to the city system.

Renewable Energy

The Student Sustainability Initiative allocated funds to install a 48 kW photovoltaic array on the roof of the Student Experience Center that will provide 5 percent of the electricity use din the building and save $4,277 in energy costs each year. The solar array will keep 35 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, the equivalent of :

  • 3,600 gallons of gasoline
  • 996 trees cleansing the air for an entire year
  • 5.6 homes powered for one year
  • 426 light bulbs powered for one year