Southeastern’s Sustainability Center has been awarded the Innovation Champion Award by the Louisiana Chapter of U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The university received the award for its innovative hybrid geothermal residence halls.

The two new state-of-the-art residence halls, Ascension and Twelve Oaks, are cooling and heating using energy from the ground.

Sustainability Manager Alejandro Martinez explained that with this type of system, pumps move heat from the ground to the building when the weather outside is chilly. When cooling is needed, the process is reversed. The result is a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and economical solution to heating and cooling. Given the conditions in Louisiana, he said, geothermal is a highly effective system for the South.

“Over time, it is projected that savings greater than 50 percent will be captured on energy expenses compared to a traditional method and build,” Martinez said. “Equally important on a university campus, the system also serves as a learning laboratory for real-world ready experiences for Southeastern students in various disciplines.”

USGBC is a nonprofit organization that houses Green Business Certification Inc., the only group to administer project certifications and professional credentials and certificates within the framework of the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. LEED designation is the international standard for environmentally sound buildings.

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