UC Merced has been recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) as having the most sustainable buildings in higher education throughout the world.
The university took the top spot among 339 campuses in the 2019 Sustainable Campus Index — which recognizes top-performing colleges and universities overall and in 17 sustainability impact areas. The scores are measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a self-reporting tool by which UC Merced earned a STARS Gold rating in July.
The ranking comes at a time when UC Merced is bringing 13 new buildings online as part of the three-phase Merced 2020 Project, with every building being on pace to be LEED platinum certified — a distinction awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council for exceeding standards of sustainability. The AASHE building criteria takes into account maintenance and operations of existing buildings as well as new building design and construction.
“Sustainability is embedded into the campus, and this recognition is a result of the contributions of many,” Director of Sustainability Mark Maxwell said. “We are pleased to see our university has been recognized for advancing sustainable solutions.”
UC Merced also tied for first in sustainability research with four other universities — including two other UCs. The research category covers faculty and department sustainability research and initiatives for open access research. Last month, the university unveiled the Sustainability Research and Engineering Building, which houses the university’s first Center of Excellence — an interdisciplinary hub focused on sustainability research and operations.
Among the remaining categories, UC Merced finished tied for fifth in sustainability investment and finance — recognizing sustainable investment, committees for responsible investing and investment disclosure — and 10 th in waste, which covers waste minimization and reduction construction, waste diversion and hazardous waste management. The university finished sixth overall among doctoral institutions.
“The institutions being recognized as top performers in this year’s Sustainable Campus Index exemplify the leadership higher education institutions are showing in addressing sustainability challenges,” AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser said.
UC Merced’s performance in the Sustainable Campus Index comes on the heels of the university’s appearance at No. 6 on the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools rankings, a rise of 44 spots from its previous high of No. 50 in 2017. The ranking is based on academic criteria like environmentally focused curriculum, student engagement with environmental activism, operations such as renewable energy generation and waste management, and schools’ planning and administrative standards.