Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, February 22, 2019

DC mayor signs green pledge at AU

Correction appended

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, AU President Neil Kerwin and the presidents of the eight other D.C. schools signed a sustainability pledge Feb. 29 at AU as part of Gray’s initiative to make Washington the greenest city in the United States.

The pledge calls on D.C. schools to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification on all new buildings, reduce waste and use tap water instead of bottled water among other goals, according to copies of the pledge handed out by University Communications.

The pledge was signed in a ceremony in the School of International Service Founders Room.

“We were able to showcase in part what this University has accomplished,” Kerwin said. “I think this building was a magnet. To sign this pledge in a LEED Gold certified building makes a great deal of sense.”

AU is pursuing LEED certification for 25 existing buildings on campus and is the first school to use LEED volume, according to AU’s Director of Sustainability Chris O’Brien.

“LEED volume is a way of certifying all of our buildings as green buildings all at once, which is a new phenomenon,” O’Brien said. “Greening our existing buildings has a tremendous impact.”

Both Gray and Kerwin acknowledged AU’s leadership in sustainability in their comments at the event.

“We were in a position to sign the document relatively easily because it’s consistent with commitments this institution has already made,” Kerwin said.

Those commitments include making AU carbon neutral by 2020, he said.

Gray launched the sustainability initiative to make D.C. the greenest U.S. city last September, and the city’s universities have since led the effort as one of the biggest employers in the District, he said.

“This is an exercise in saving the planet for the generations to come,” Gray said.

The universities will publish sustainability commitments at the end of the year and report on their progress in August 2014, according to O’Brien.

“We are now developing a sustainability plan that will be more overarching,” he said.

These efforts include building more green roofs and rain gardens on campus to prevent polluted storm water from overflowing into the Potomac River, O’Brien said.

“We’ve already made a lot of progress,” he said. “We buy 100 percent renewable energy. We’re the third-largest school in the country to do that.”

The SIS building received LEED Gold certification in 2011, not long after other D.C. colleges also received LEED Gold certification for buildings on its campus.

The LEED-certified SIS building officially opened Sept. 23, 2010, The Eagle previously reported.

“I am definitely more than satisfied with AU’s level of sustainability,” said Katherine Sibel, a SIS freshman and member of the Office of Sustainability student group Green Eagles.

George Washington University became the first D.C. college to receive LEED Gold certification in 2010 when two of its dorms were LEED certified, according to a flyer handed out by a GWU media representative at the signing ceremony. Georgetown University’s Rafik B. Hariri Building was Silver certified in 2010. Catholic University also has an LEED certified dorm.

A previous version of this article said nine other presidents signed the pledge; there were eight.

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