BSC Sustainability Tour
BSC Sustainability Tour
Southern Environmental Center
The only facility of its kind in the U.S., SEC is toured by 20,000 visitors annually, and serves as a foundation for BSC's Urban Environmental Studies program. Exhibits designed with help from BSC's Art department focus on ways individuals can improve air and water quality, and reduce solid waste. There's even a giant toilet slide that propels visitors to the deep end of the old pool. TIM has been recognized nationally for its innovative approach to environmental education, and was recently featured on PBS's Dragonfly science education series.
Visit the Southern Environmental Center's Website.
Library White Roof
Sometimes simple strategies can be very effective. Remember in grade school when we learned how white surfaces reflect light and stay cool, while black surfaces absorb light and trap heat? Not until recently did engineers apply this concept to building roofs. Cooling our buildings is very energy-demanding - especially during the long Alabama summers. Yet, most roofs on big buildings are sealed with a mix of tar and pebbles – a combination that absorbs and stores heat. In 2011 when the BSC library needed a new roof, we installed a "white roof" instead. Now, instead of absorbing the heat from the sun, we reflect it back into space. It's impossible to see from below, but it glows brightly when viewed with GoogleEarth. This has not only reduced our energy use in the building by up to 20%, but we contribute less to the urban heat island effect that plagues cities in the Sunbelt. What's more, the new roof cost 42% less than a conventional roof!
Greening of the Student Parking Lot
Stormwater runoff from parking lots, roads, and roofs pollutes natural wetlands. When a reconfiguration of the student parking lot between the baseball and soccer fields was implemented in 2009, several features were added to capture stormwater, filter pollutants, and allow rainfall to percolate into the groundwater. A bio-swale behind the leftfield fence of the Striplin baseball field now collects some stormwater, while a gravel French drain captures runoff in a different area. Green space with vegetation was added in the form of new medians and dividers and also improved safety in the parking lot. Most notably, pervious pavement was used in a portion of a new parking area. This pavement duplicates the functional features of traditional asphalt pavement but allows rain to percolate into the soil. Collectively, this remodeling of the parking lot has helped reduce the College's stormwater footprint, which helps reduce erosion, flooding, and pollution of local creeks and rivers, and helps replenish groundwater. In this case, the benefits slip through the cracks.
LEED Certified Residence Halls
In fall 2010, BSC opened the first LEED certified residence halls in Alabama. The Lakeview North and South residence halls total 65,290 square feet and house 167 students. The project earned LEED certification for use of regional, recycled, low-VOC, and formaldehyde-free materials in and outside the buildings. The buildings are oriented along an east-west axis to minimize solar heat gain and maximize cooling efficiency. The variable refrigerant volume (VRV) HVAC system has variable speed outdoor fan units coupled with floor-by-floor intelligent refrigerant-borrowing to create a highly efficient system. More than 90% of occupied spaces have over a 2% glazing factor and 99% have access to views. The site includes a 15,000 gallon cistern that captures rainwater off of half the roof area and uses it for landscape irrigation, saving 50,000 gallons of water per year. Water and energy conservation measures include dual-flush toilets, low-flow faucets and showers, compact fluorescent lights, and occupancy sensors in public areas.
Urban Environmental Park
The Urban Environmental Park on campus was dedicated in November of 2009. The park, including a 1.5 acre lake, has been added to the natural setting of Birmingham-Southern's wooded campus and includes an amphitheatre, walkways, a fountain, and rain gardens for storm water management. It is located on the west end of campus between the residence hall quad and the intramural fields (on the site that formerly housed old fraternity row),
The Urban Environmental Park’s key sustainable elements include:
- Systems to clean storm water before it leaves the campus by passing the water from the parking area into a series of rain gardens, to the lake spillway and then to an existing low area that acts as a vernal pond.
- The vernal pond was preserved and enhanced by the addition of water loving plants, all in an effort to naturally recharge storm water runoff.
- The lake fringe is designed to encourage desirable wildlife by using native and naturalized plant materials.
- The storm water from the developed upstream watershed is directed through a series of purification measures that filter impurities from the nearby parking lots and rooftops. These measures include rain gardens to filter impurities, an aerated upper pond and then a final transition to a riparian corridor and wetlands before the storm water leaves the site.
- Native plants or adaptive native plants in the landscape.
- Stone materials native to the region from northern Alabama and Tennessee.
- Lighting selected to meet dark skies criteria thereby not adding to light pollution. All lighting is pedestrian in scale and directed downward to reduce any light pollution. Lights are placed in trees wherever possible (directed downward) to enhance the effect and reduce the number of poles seen throughout the park.
The park was awarded a Conservation Development Award from the Cahaba River Society in recognition for its low impact design (LID) features. Highlights of the park noted for the award included capturing runoff water in three rain gardens where some of it is filtered and reused to fill the park pond, saving an existing natural wetland as a third storm water infiltration site to handle pond overflow, using native plants to further filter water in the pond, and guarding of trees and minimizing tree removal on the site to protect the existing campus forest. The park was also selected as one of 150 pilot project locations for the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™), which is an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.
One of the greatest environmental impacts of an urban area is its influence on streams. In the urban landscape, forests that soak up and slowly released rainwater into streams are replaced with parking lots, roofs, and streets. These impervious surfaces divert water into a "stormwater" channel system that quickly delivers the rainwater into a local stream. The flood of water overwhelms the streams and destroys habitat for aquatic wildlife and plants. One solution to this is the rain garden. BSC's rain gardens are located near the United Methodist Church North Alabama Conference Center. Stormwater from the Center and its parking lot flow into several depressions lined with porous soils. Here, stormwater seeps down into the groundwater below, while sediments and other pollutants carried by the stormwater remain in the garden. Excess stormwater flows into the lake in the Urban Environmental Park before joining nearby Valley Creek. Our rain gardens reduce our "stormwater footprint" in the urban landscape, and supplies nearby trees with water year-round. What's more, the rain garden is lined with eye-catching native plants chosen to attract wildlife. It's another win-win.
Invasive Species Removal in the Ecoscape Forest
The BSC Ecoscape forest includes an eight-acre remnant of a mature oak-hickory-pine forest – a habitat now rare in the urban environment. The preserve is a five-minute walk from the dorms and contains trees over 150 years old. Ornithology classes have documented over 100 species of birds in the woods including Cooper's hawks, yellow-crowned night herons, barred owls, and wild turkeys. Bobcats, foxes, and coyotes also frequent the woods. Unfortunately, several species of non-native invasive plants have established a foothold in the forest. Teams of student volunteers have been removing Chinese privet, English ivy, and other nuisance plants to help protect the forest, while science classes monitor the successful return of native plants in restored areas.
BSC Community Garden
Founded by students, the gardens were built on a sunny slope next to the students apartments. Along with student vegetable plots, the Admissions office maintains a vegetable garden as well. Harvested produce goes to student kitchens with overflow accepted by the BSC café. For student and BSC neighbors who love gardening or have never planted and harvested their own crops, the garden is a joy and a great stress reducer. In 2008 the BSC Garden Club, led by Ben Tracy from Atlanta, was organized and launched in conjunction with the implementation of the new urban environmental studies major. Tracy, who was an Urban Environmental Studies major, completed a summer internship with the Atlanta Urban Gardening Program where he gained skills and experience in organic growing