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Using an Integrated Approach to Developing Sustainability Guidelines and Performance Targets for a New College Campus

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In 2010, the College of the Desert focused the development of a new community college campus on the goal of creating a practical example of sustainable design. The West Valley Campus, located in Palm Springs, California, is currently being designed using an integrated approach, through which independent planners, designers, and contractors will work using a common framework to create a uniquely integrated sustainable facility that will become a living laboratory for teaching and learning. The integrated campus design process was developed to enable the campus to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change by potentially having a lower water and energy demand when compared to a series of parallel green design elements.

Two documents are central to the framework of the Integrated Design Campus Plan. The Sustainability Guidelines were completed in January, 2010, followed by the Performance Targets in July, 2010. These two documents were created by a diverse team of professionals representing the fields of planning, design, engineering, ecology, scientific research, and architecture. This team shared a singular vision of creating a framework to provide guidance for current and future phases of campus development that move beyond the current sustainability paradigm of living within available resources. The strategy adopted here was for designing a holistic campus to mimic desert ecology, emphasize resource conservation and efficiency, the recovery of wastes, and adaptation to climate change.

The overarching goals of the Sustainability Guidelines were zero waste, sustainable hydrology, net zero energy, carbon-neutral campus, and ecological restoration. Principles of sustainability were identified and arranged by thirteen themes over the Community, Campus, and Building scales: Education, Policy & Governance, Social, Economics, Ecology, Water, Energy, Waste, Transportation, Greenhouse Gases, Health & Wellness, Agriculture & Food and Materials. A fundamental aspect of integrated and sustainable design was recognition of the need to open boundaries –– such as property boundaries, boundaries between scales (building, site and community) and boundaries between design disciplines –– to find synergies that would enhance the triple bottom line of ecological, social, and economic values. The performance guidelines will enable the campus to become a core part of the local and regional green economy and community. Water and waste recovery, energy generation, ecological regeneration, energy recovery from waste, and shared infrastructure will drive sustainability as the campus is developed.

The Performance Targets were a refinement of the Sustainability Guidelines. In this context, concepts of integrated sustainability were transformed through explicit analysis of campus themes and systems to achieve optimal efficiencies and maximum environmental, social, and economic value in the final campus. The Performance Targets are providing the campus and building design team with a practical resource of performance targets, technologies, strategies, applicability, and relevant case studies for each theme and system. The document illustrates how, when the themes were interrelated, the broader context of each theme becomes readily apparent. The Performance Targets compendium became a guide to the creative design professionals who are bringing to life the sustainable vision of the College of the Desert.

The ultimate goal of this process was creating a new approach to the design of institutions that integrates sustainability into the design process at three physical and social scales: building, campus, and community. The project team believes that concepts introduced in the project documents apply, not only to college campuses, but to new and renovation project opportunities for institutional, industrial, and municipal projects in a broad range of geographic, ecological, and economic settings.
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Keywords: Campus Planning; Desert; Ecological Regeneration; Infrastructure Planning; Integrated Design; Integrated Sustainability; Metrics; Net-Zero Energy; Performance Targets; Sustainable Hydrology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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