Native plants adorn new LEED certified building

Josh Herzer, left, and Delia Delgado, right, plant a wild hydrangea to add to Walter International Center's LEED Certification. Photo by CG News Editor Lucas Bechtol.

By CG News Editor Lucas Bechtol

One aspect of Walter International Center’s LEED Silver Certification is the planting of native plant species behind the building, something that was accomplished by students with the help of Philip Cantino, a professor of environmental and plant biology.

The project came about when former Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus thought to pursue the sustainable site credit to add to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification of the building, said Hannah Simonetti, a staff member in the Office of Sustainability.

“Really, the whole thing was commissioned by Sonia Marcus,” she said.

Cantino and eight students worked to plant native species, including shellbark hickory, which is not anywhere else on campus, and pawpaw trees, Cantino said.

The project is going to take a lot of care beyond planting, Cantino said. The hill is facing south which means the land will dry out quickly and many invasive plants, including honeysuckle and English ivy, are growing there, too.

“We’ll see how well it works,” he said.

Students learned about the project because of an e-mail sent out to the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology, but had their own reasons for joining.

“I thought it would be a really cool idea to just leave a mark on campus that’s gonna stick around for hundreds of years,” said Josh Herzer, a senior studying plant biology and ecology.

Herzer liked planting the native species because otherwise the site would have most likely stayed full of invasive plants, he said.

The experience was valuable to the students because they could apply what they have been studying, Simonetti said.

“The educational value is going to go on for years to come because there are going to be so many species of plants on this site that you can’t find anywhere else on campus,” she said. “It’s going to be a really awesome learning and teaching tool for plant bio students and any students studying sustainability.”

Delia Delgado, a senior studying wildlife biology, gained an interest in the project after taking a class about native plants that excited her, she said.

“I like the idea that native plants can thrive better without as much help because they’re adapted to this kind of environment,” she said.

The LEED certification ranges from certified to platinum based on points achieved through environmental friendliness in areas including water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, according to the U.S. Green Building website.

The reuse of the building (not tearing it down before construction) and water efficient landscaping will account for points in the LEED Silver certification of Walter International Center, which is the first OU building to be LEED certified, said Interim Sustainability Coordinator Erin Sykes in an email.

All new buildings, such as the new Scripps School of Education building in Old Baker Center, will be built to at least LEED Silver Certification, Sykes said in an interview.

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