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Panel discussion promotes green construction at USF

Members of the USF and Tampa communities gathered Thursday to learn about sustainable construction at a panel discussion hosted by the Emerging Green Builders.

Attendees were privy to presentations from a University administrator, a city councilman, a University of Florida professor, a USF mechanical engineer and an environmental scientist. Main topics of discussion included benefits of sustainable construction, current efforts to make the campus more eco-friendly, actions at a city level to promote a green community and steps students can take toward building agreener campus.

Here’s a summary of what each said:

Joshua Bomstein, Vice President of Creative Contractors, Inc., member of U.S. Green Building Council and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional.

• On average, green buildings can pay for themselves within three years, but some have a zero cost increase for construction. If there is a cost increase, it is set off by the improved health and productivity of its inhabitants.

“It’s difficult to put an exact cost on a green building,” Bomstein said. “It depends on the baseline for construction.”

Delcie Durham, USF associate provost for research and graduate dean • There is a need to establish a Sustainable Healthy Communities program to improve higher education in the area of sustainability and seek funding for development from the National Science Foundation.

“To improve green building education, we need to bring sustainability education to the undergraduate level and increase the emphasis on the graduate level,” Durham said.

“Sustainability education is a complex system involving the interrelation of multiple


John Dingfelder, City of Tampa Councilman and member of the Green Building Task Force

• There is a push in City Council to establish a green building ordinance by 2008 to mandate the construction of only LEED-certified buildings in the city. There is hope to design green construction for the Children’s Museum and Tampa Bay History Center.

“We have meetings every other week,” Dingfelder said. “I encourage anyone interested is to attend.”

Charles Kibert, University of Florida professor and director of Powell Center for Construction and Environment

• He discussed the path that UF took to become a greener campus. After the progressive construction of LEED-certified Rinker Hall, UF set goals to be carbon-neutral and have zero waste energy by 2020. This year UF students passed a referendum to invest student fees in renewable energy systems on campus.

“It is my suggestion that individual schools establish their own offices of sustainability as approved by the deans,” Kilbert said. “It could cause a ripple effect and (the) administration will have to agree.”

Jennifer Isenbeck, USF mechanical engineer, LEED AP

• From an environmental engineering perspective, USF buildings need to be redesigned to conserve energy.

“There is no reason to have all the lights on or run the air conditioning all night when there’s no one in the buildings,” Isenbeck said.

Trey McDonald, LEED AP, environmental scientist and USF graduate student

• While performing research for his master’s thesis, McDonald found that there was nowhere to go for centralized information on USF sustainability facts.

• From his own legwork, McDonald determined that USF is following in the ecological footsteps of benchmark schools of sustainable design such as UF, Duke University, University of Oregon and Pennsylvania State.

“There is an absolute need to establish an Office of Sustainability to serve as a clearinghouse,” McDonald said. “Administration must make a commitment and listen to the call from students.”

Jaclyn DeVore can be reached at (813) 974-1888 or