FGCU – Florida Gulf Coast University’s Solar Array, completed in 2010 and probably the second largest found at a state university in the nation and certainly the largest in Florida, has 11,000 individual panels, covers 15 acres and contributes 18% to FPL energy savings on campus. It’s just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to FGCU environmental projects, a trademark since FGCU was conceived by the legislature.
“FGCU President Bradshaw’s pro-active support has been critical,” shared Steve Magiera, Vice President, Administrative Services and Finance. “My commitment to environmental sustainability is both personal and professional,” said FGCU President Wilson G. Bradshaw, who drives an electric-powered Chevrolet Volt. “FGCU was built and continues to develop on a foundation of ecological awareness and preservation, and as such we recognize the University’s role as a good neighbor, a thoughtful steward, and a role model for co-existing development and conservation.”
The “tip of the iceberg” began with the original ice thermal plant, conceived and built in 1997 with rebate support from Florida Power and Light. Twenty-four ice tanks in the beginning grew to 140 – the second largest “ice farm” in the United States – freezing at night during off peak hours and cooling the campus during peak hours, with $1/2 million annual savings and FPL rebates, “still a viable and environmentally friendly cooling system, but currently maximized,” according to Jim Hehl, Director of the Physical Plant.
Susan Evans, FGCU Chief of Staff, was one of the “original five” FGCU administrators twenty years ago. “The original ten-year plan required unique criteria: an environmental orientation, non-tenured faculty, and a required student service learning component,” said Evans. Land acquisition, permitting and even a legal tussle with environmentalists supported these commitments. Early construction, following the ice thermal cooling plant, was designed to fit into the environment, not change it.
“The ‘original five’ drove onto the FGCU acreage in a four wheel drive and cut a path with a machete, awed by the beauty. The first FGCU President, Dr. Roy McTarnaghan, picked blue and green for colors and the Eagle as the FGCU symbol to represent the earth and sky and wildlife around us,” remembered Evans.
FGCU President William Bradshaw, appointed in 2007, took construction to the next step, as one of the first signers to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Agreement: all new FGCU construction will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified (LEED) from a minimum of Silver to a maximum of Platinum. The U. S. Green Building Council national certification standards include four point levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The College of Arts and Sciences has Platinum LEED Certification; the new Marieb Hall expects to attain Silver (it’s not served by the Solar Array); and residence halls are currently either seeking certification or already certified Silver.
New construction incorporates LEED criteria in contractor specifications. Barrett Genson, Director of Facilities and Planning, has his eye on the Innovation Hub (IHUB). “FGCU’s developing public/private partnership with Galvano Development Company and John D. Backe, former CEO of CBS will take FGCU off campus to a 240 acre tract of land designated for research and innovation to discover unique renewable energy applications,” said Genson. The $12.5 million, 32,000 sq. ft. cutting-edge research facility will explore renewable energies, sustainable building design, and leading edge environmental practices. An entire research park, built with sustainable practices, will be an anchor site for a potential research corridor between FGCU and Southwest International Airport, attracting businesses that will diversify the economic base of tourism and construction to include research with international implications. The appointment of Dr. Joseph Simmons to the FGCU Backe Endowed Chair in Renewable Energy promises to attract additional resources and lead to exciting renewable energy applications.
The FGCU campus is a living, environmental learning lab. “See the students in boots studying the lakes?
FGCU only built on half the land; the rest is a natural habitat with a growing wildlife population,” said Evans. “In addition to the required service learning component, all students complete an environmental issues colloquium.” FGCU gives students a green experience for their future use.
They take what they have learned with them. President Bradshaw sets the example in his personal and professional life; his Chevrolet Volt is plugged in outside his office.