Business as Usual: Jabs Hall Gains Gold LEED Certification, Loses Solar Panels.

Written by Sarah Gilkerson and Greta Robison

According to the MSU Facilities, Production, Design, and Construction (FPDC) director Walt Banzinger, any newly constructed building should represent the “campus’ culture.” It should be a silent spokesperson for the long-lasting message of the institution and should seek to invite prospective students.

It’s difficult to say whether the new College of Business building truly expresses student and faculty goals at MSU. Although the administration and various building committees are patting themselves on the back for a well-spent nod to sustainability, there are a few recent developments that everyone on this campus should be aware of.

According to Banzinger and other committee members, the solar panels that were originally planned as a feature of the building have been cut. Due to donor involvement, committee meetings and a last minute architectural decision, this sustainable and necessary energy source will no longer be a part of the new building. In addition to this, the sustainable heating method originally in the building designs was quietly cut.

This is particularly frustrating considering that, upon the construction of the building, there was concern from environmental organizations and students on campus. A grove of old growth trees were removed to open the site for construction, a move opposed by many students. The sustainable aspects of the building were key factors in justifying the location and recruited many environmentally concerned students and faculty members to support the construction. The removal of the sustainable aspects of the building not only discounts these people’s trust, it breaks it.

Acknowledging that construction is a “fluid process”, librarian and planning committee member James Thull remarks that this new development is disappointing. Although the structure will still be prepped in case solar panels are an option in the future, this feature is being scrapped while aesthetic features are still receiving funding. Specifically, a giant glass map of Montana and a coffee service are being given the priority that the practical solar panels deserve.

Banzinger comments that the aesthetics and food features are extremely important for the building’s success. If we are to evaluate the structure by Banzinger’s own criteria, however, it’s clear that these aspects are secondary to its reflection of campus culture.

Bozeman and MSU’s values are completely intermingled with our surrounding natural environment. This, combined with Montana’s practicality and no-nonsense culture should provide the basis for the new structure. A building that has few aesthetic features to make room for necessary solar panels reflects that culture. It seems obvious that the students and faculty of MSU are better represented by a university that not only values Gold Leadership in nergy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, but what that certification actually means.

For clarification, LEED certification is a process that new buildings can undergo to be evaluated for their environmental efficiency. Points are awarded in eight categories ranging from energy and atmosphere to innovation and design. It is important to note that MSU has excelled at paying attention to many of the details that make a building sustainable, reaching an overall score of 68/110 for the Jake Jabs College of Business.

However, although only 7 LEED points are lost due to the cut, it is extremely important to remember what those points represent. As students we are charged with holding our administration and their decisions accountable. Thus, it is our duty to remind them that these sustainable features are far more important to us than a cup of coffee or a lit-up map of Montana. Time and time again, when talking with faculty, the ASMSU senate, committee members, or administration, the phrase that kept surfacing was that students have an important and well attended voice. So my advice? Use it.