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K-State Today

March 17, 2011

The power of green: Award-winning sustainability conference March 30-31

By Julie Fosberg

Kansas State University's award-winning sustainability conference is poised for another big year in 2011 with an expanded program and the formal commissioning of the School of Leadership Studies building.

The third annual conference will be March 30-31 at the K-State Student Union. Online registration is available at http://sustainability.k-state.edu/conferences/2011/; special early registration rates end Friday, March 18.

The conference offers a diverse set of presentations, said Ben Champion, K-State's director of sustainability. Providing the keynote presentations are K-State's John Harrington, professor of geography, and Gary Coates, professor of architecture.

Harrington will discuss the struggles associated with the development of interdisciplinary climate science, which aligns with the conference theme of the role of higher education in sustainability.

"He's going to be looking at the big picture and what needs to happen with academia in general in order for us to address sustainability in a healthy way," Champion said.

Coates will present on developing sustainable communities with a focus on Manhattan. During 2010 Coates had students in his graduate-level architecture design course create a master plan for Manhattan and the surrounding community. Some of the students' ideas have been implemented in the downtown redevelopment project, Champion said.

Several K-State students also will be presenting their work at the conference. They include:

Hillary Dees, senior in anthropology and natural resources and environmental sciences, New Strawn, "American Concepts of 'Green'"; Matthew VanSchenkhof, doctoral student in human ecology, St. George, "An Investigation of Water Usage in Casual Dining Restaurants in Kansas"; and Jonathan Knight, master's student in regional and community planning, Wichita, "(Re)thinking Rural."

From out of state: Cosette Armstrong, doctoral student in human ecology, Liberty, Tenn., "A Model for Course Redevelopment for Sustainable Development."

This year's conference will have more workshops and networking opportunities than offered the two previous years. Workshops include a do-it-yourself home energy audit presented by representatives from Westar Energy. The optional workshop is $20 and provides points to Manhattan in the ongoing Take Charge! Challenge. Other presentations and posters will also discuss the energy conservation challenge that pits K-State and Manhattan against the University of Kansas and Lawrence.

"Dealing with energy concerns and pursuing energy conservation efforts are a huge part of sustainability efforts," Champion said. "It's a great time to learn more about that."

Tim Cole of the United States Green Building Council will present at the conference's luncheon Thursday. He also will speak at the formal commissioning of the School of Leadership Studies building at 4 p.m. Thursday. The commissioning is for conferring LEED gold certification on the building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an internationally recognized ratings system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage the development of sustainable buildings.

"We believe this is the first building to be LEED certified on any Kansas college campus," Champion said. "It's not just LEED certified: it's LEED gold certified."

The commissioning ceremony will feature a variety of speakers in addition to Cole, according to Tamara Bauer, coordinator of student services and communications for the School of Leadership Studies. Ruth Dyer, senior vice provost, will provide a welcome, followed by remarks from Champion and a student representative from the school.

The original goal for the building was to be certified LEED silver, the rating just below gold, Bauer said.

"The fact that our building was gold certified was a big tribute to our architects and to our commitment as a community to sustainability," she said. "Faculty, staff and students are really excited."

The 2010 Sustainability Conference was awarded the University Continuing Education Association’s Distance Learning Community of Practice Exemplary Program Award. The Great Plains Region of the Association of Continuing Higher Education recognized the conference's 2009 session with its Exceptional Conference Program Award, and in September 2009 the University Continuing Education Great Plains Region awarded the conference an outstanding program award.