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MSIs To Get New Help in Going ‘Green’

A new grant to the United Negro College Fund should help a cross-section of minority-serving institutions – including Hispanic-serving universities and tribal colleges – promote environmentally friendly building practices in the years ahead.

The $1.8 million grant from The Kresge Foundation will go to UNCF for the Building Green at Minority-Serving Institutions Initiative. The chief goals are to build knowledge and capacity so these under-resourced colleges and universities can build faculty expertise and develop more sustainable, energy-efficient facilities.

The goal is for MSIs to build “better, smarter, more intelligent” buildings, said William F.L. Moses, program director at the foundation. While environmentally friendly, such buildings also can reduce long-term operating costs by up to 50 percent through less use of electricity and water.

“Minority-serving institutions want and need to become as green as possible as fast as possible,” said Michael Lomax, UNCF president and chief executive officer.

Activities will begin early in 2010 when UNCF will sponsor three Green Building Learning Institutes, one each in Atlanta, Minneapolis and San Antonio. Those who attend these workshops will be eligible to apply for $20,000 mini-grants to develop green “action plans” for their campuses, said Elfred Anthony Pinkard, executive director of the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building. Ten institutions ultimately will receive these grants to pursue green building strategies.

In addition, the institute will offer six one-day technical assistance workshops to build on material covered during the Green Building Learning Institutes.

At a teleconference Thursday announcing the initiative, UNCF, The Kresge Foundation, and green design experts said one objective of the initiative is to increase the number of minority-serving institutions that join the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

More than 650 post-secondary institutions have signed on to this document, pledging to develop action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral.

Another objective is to increase the number of buildings on MSI campuses that receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

By virtue of their small endowments, minority-serving colleges are hard-pressed to develop environmentally sustainable practices, speakers at the teleconference noted. Small colleges also may lack in-house expertise, and one goal of the new initiative is to build interest among faculty members and, ultimately, students, in green building practices.

MSIs “work within strained budgets even in the best of economic times, and, in tough economic times, it is difficult for MSIs to make the necessary investments,” Lomax said. “We believe that this initiative will help them find the way toward affordable sustainability.”

Despite these obstacles, some MSIs are going green. Spelman College recently opened a new residence hall that received a LEED Silver rating, a marker of environmentally friendly construction. According to Arthur E. Frazier III, Spelman’s director of facilities management, the building uses 31 percent less water and 19 percent less energy than other residence halls.

Green construction generally costs up to 2.5 percent more than typical construction projects, even though it may yield longer-term benefits. For HBCUs, one option may be to renovate or retrofit historic structures to incorporate new energy-efficient practices, UNCF said.

Including the mini-grants, workshops, and seminars, 400 MSIs should gain new information and assistance through the program, initiative leaders noted. Information about the 2010 workshops will be posted soon through MSI organizations and their web sites, they added.

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