UC Davis Tops Cool Schools List

Home to the biggest planned net-zero energy residential community in the US, the University of California, Davis, is at the top of Sierra Magazine‘s sixth annual "Coolest Schools" list.

The list rates 96 colleges and universities on sustainable infrastructure, transportation, renewable energy use and academics that relate to environmental research and sustainable business studies.

One big part of UC Davis’ top rating is UC Davis West Village, a 130-acre net-zero energy development that will house 3,000 people in 662 apartments and 343 single-family homes.

UC Davis

UC Davis West Village is a mixed use community that includes 42,500 square feet of retail space. Photo credit: Karin Higgs 

Net-zero buildings produce as much energy as they consume, so the community includes a diverse range of renewable energy and energy-efficiency investments.

For example, it use green building materials such as solar-reflective roofing, radiant barrier roof sheathing, occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting technologies that turn lights off if there is enough natural light to suffice. The first phase cost $300 million to build and includes 315 apartments. It opened in October 2011.

The plan includes a 4-megawatt (MW) solar system and a biodigester that converts table scraps, animal and plant waste into energy.

Other contributors to the UC Davis ranking were:

  • A plan to divert 70% of campus trash from landfills (the current rate is 64%)
  • A Climate Action Plan that has reduced campus greenhouse gas emissions below 2000 levels
  • A $39 million Smart Lighting Initiative on track to cut campus electrical use by 60% by 2015 (and cut $3 million in annual electricity costs)
  • A commitment to local and organic foods (20% of the $5.6 million food budget) 
  • Four LEED Platinum ratings

The top 10 schools are:

  1. University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
  2. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta)
  3. Stanford University (Stanford, California)
  4. University of Washington (Seattle)
  5. University of Connecticut (Storrs, Connecticut)
  6. University of New Hampshire (Durham, New Hampshire)
  7. Duke University (Durham, North Carolina)
  8. Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)
  9. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, California)
  10. Appalachian State University (Boone, North Carolina)

To see how your favorite college or university fared:

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