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UTEP’s Campus Transformation Earns Sustainability Honor

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) recently announced that The University of Texas at El Paso’s Campus Transformation project earned the world’s first official SITES Silver Certification Award for achievement in sustainability.

Washington, D.C.-based GBCI based its rating on the results of a rigorous scoring system that included such categories as pre-design assessment, soil, water and vegetation designs, as well as maintenance and education. The project captured the maximum points for innovation.

“This is great for UTEP,” said Greg McNicol, associate vice president for business affairs – facilities management. He helped plan and coordinate the “once in a lifetime project.” McNicol said that the University was able to reclaim unusable slopes and parking lots and turn them into a campus jewel.

The most significant piece of the Campus Transformation effort is the impressive Centennial Plaza that officially opened in April 2015.

The 11-acre oasis in the center of campus is made up of a large grass oval surrounded by wide multi-textured walking paths, shade trees, drought-resistant shrubs, concrete benches, water fountains, rock-strewn arroyos and a 130-seat amphitheater.

SITES is a comprehensive rating system designed to distinguish sustainable landscapes, measure their performance and elevate their value, said Heather Venhaus, principal of Regenerative Environmental Design. Venhaus, who helped shepherd the project through its GBCI certification, said the SITES framework is based on the concept of ecosystem services where nature supports daily life.

“Sustainable landscapes create resilient communities that clean air and water, provide habitat, reduce consumption and promote human health and well-being by connecting people to nature,” she said.

Micah Silvey, director of the GBCI certification team, applauded those involved for achieving the first Silver Certification Award outside the pilot program using the latest criteria.

“Their achievement is commendable,” he said.

Before:

CentennialPlazaBefore

After:

Grand opening of UTEP's Centennial Plaza, Saturday, April 18, 2015, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP News Service
Grand opening of UTEP’s Centennial Plaza, Saturday, April 18, 2015, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP News Service

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