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Merced 2020 Project Buildings Earn LEED Certification

January 28, 2021
Platinum is the highest LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council awarded to buildings.

Eleven buildings in the Merced 2020 Project, UC Merced’s ambitious public-private partnership that nearly doubled the campus footprint, have been awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Platinum is the highest LEED certification awarded to buildings. According to the Green Building Council, LEED certification recognizes healthier, more productive places; reduced stress on the environment by encouraging energy and resource-efficient buildings; and savings from increased building value, higher lease rates and decreased utility costs.

“UC Merced has been on the cutting edge of sustainability in higher education since its inception,” said Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “We not only produce cutting-edge research in sustainability, we model the practices and culture that create a more sustainable world.”

“On behalf of Plenary Properties Merced, I’d like to congratulate the entire Merced 2020 Project team. Achieving the prestigious LEED Platinum certification on all eligible buildings is a testament to the University’s leadership in sustainability and environmental excellence across its campus,” said Dale Bonner, executive chairman at Plenary.

“SOM is proud to have collaborated with UC Merced from the very beginning, and it’s impressive to see how they have achieved the absolute highest level of leadership in sustainability in such a short amount of time,” said SOM Partner Carrie Byles, FAIA. “Their significant contributions to environmental research, and ability to walk the talk with such authenticity, is a credit to their leadership, academic programs and the entire campus community.”

“Working with the team over the past four years has been eye-opening and allowed me to see how an exceptional group of partners could work together with a shared goal,” said Webcor Sustainability Director Jenelle Shapiro. “Sustainability priorities at UC Merced lay beyond just designing beautiful buildings and earning LEED certification. As the general contractor, we were encouraged to think differently about the way we operationally performed and managed our jobsite to collectively reduce our environmental impact and to prioritize the local community. The UC Merced campus has changed significantly from the big mud pit out there on day one, and we are happy to have been a part of their sustainability story.”

The $1.2 billion Merced 2020 Project, completed in summer 2020, is the largest public-private partnership (P3) social infrastructure project in U.S. history. It will enable the UC’s newest and fastest-growing campus to accommodate up to 10,000 students.

The P3 development team, under the banner of Plenary Properties Merced, was led by developer and equity provider Plenary in partnership with Webcor, lead campus planner Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Johnson Controls Inc., which led operations and maintenance.

The LEED Platinum achievement is the latest in a series of plaudits for UC Merced’s leadership in sustainability. The campus is the first public research university certified as carbon-neutral, and every campus building is LEED certified. The Sierra Club named UC Merced the no. 5 “Cool School” in the nation, and the AASHE Sustainable Campus Index in 2019 ranked the university no. 1 in the United States for sustainable buildings and sustainable research.