University of California- Merced

The UC Merced campus was founded as a living laboratory in a teachable landscape, a charge that continues to inform our academic programs, co-curricular activities, and service learning efforts.

In our established Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) Lab course, students assess building performance and sustainable practices that reduce environmental impacts of buildings over their functional life cycle. Students have worked on building site maintenance programs, water and energy use, and indoor environmental quality. One building has been certified under US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED EBOM, and the second is expected later this summer.

Our Energize Colleges program in partnership with Strategic Energy Innovations was launched in 2017. The program supports a network of community and institutional partners, preparing students to become leaders in the energy and green workforce. The projects are designed to develop students’ knowledge, skills, and experience. The campus also participates in the University of California System Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) Fellowship program, designed to fund projects that contribute to individual campuses CNI by 2025.

The required Core 1 general education course explores environmental and societal responsibility, as both pertain to California’s natural resources. In 2006 the course served five hundred students and has grown to serving almost two thousand in 2014. The Sustainability Minor focuses on the application of concepts that prepare students to understand and solve challenges facing our environment such as climate change, pollution, conservation, and resource management.

Climate Innovation

UC Merced partnered in the UCTV-Sustainable California launched May of 2017. The new video portal provides an opportunity for the University of California to share its efforts in pursuit of a Sustainable California. Video topics showcased on the website include water, conservation, and climate.

The Center for Climate Communication conducts and promotes research on communicating climate issues, including climate variability and adaptation. Efforts include: Examining the meaning and presentation of climate reports from varied sources, such as TV news, social media outlets, governmental agencies, and corporations. Studying how the content and mode of presenting climate information influences general public reasons about uncertainty and risk—developing better ways to talk and think about climate issues.

UC Merced also participates in the University of California Water, Security, and Sustainability Research Initiative, also known as UC Water. This multi-campus initiative established in 2015 address issues related to climate change, population growth, and land-cover variations. The campus also participates in the University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute, also known as UC Solar. The multi-campus research establishment examines solar energy economics and policy, and the development of technologies that make solar energy systems more efficient and affordable.

The campus is also represented on the Global Climate Leadership Council (GCLC). The GCLC was formed in 2014 to advise the University of California (UC) on achieving the ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. The council provides guidance on integrating the carbon neutrality initiative and other sustainability goals into UC’s teaching, research and public service mission.

Creating Opportunity

After receiving its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification designation under New Construction (NC) from the USGBC ten years ago, UC Merced is now the only Higher Education Institution in the nation to have all its buildings on campus environmentally certified. This means that buildings meet or exceed sustainability design and construction standards. LEED EBOM will be pursued through the Engineer Service Learning courses program.

A 4MW solar photovoltaic (PV) contract has been finalized for building rooftops and covered parking. The PV system designed to come online in the summer of 2017 is projected to service fifty percent of the campus electricity needs, reducing UC Merced’s carbon emission output.

Conservation and efficiency measures have included LED retrofits, retro-commissioning and recommissioning. In the fall of 2016 the campus launched its first Green Labs Assessment Program, which works with individual researchers and laboratories to assess, educate, and identify best practices in research efficiency.

UC Merced is also represented on the University of California Wholesale Power Program (WPP) Governing Board. The entity creates a portfolio of electricity supply that incorporates UC procured renewables. The WPP executed a photovoltaic contract of 80MW in 2014 that came online the end of 2016. As a consequence, the carbon emission content of the power UC supplies will be reduced substantially.

Furthermore, the campus has implemented water conservation and efficiency measures that have included evapotranspiration-based irrigation systems, which water landscapes when appropriate based on weather sensors, directed spray streams, and a report a leak program.