Our Sustainability

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recycle
plastic in water

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is development in which humans and nature can exist in harmony without compromising the needs of present and future generations. Sustainability includes:

  • Defining operations to reduce our carbon footprint through energy efficiency, conservation, and process optimization
  • Lessen and limit the impacts of the built environment on natural systems through low impact design, integrated design management, system optimization
  • Incorporating efficient and conscious ways of handling materials including reducing amount of materials, reusing materials, and recycling materials
  • Providing transportation options to reduce commuting emissions
  • Educating current generations and training the next generation

 

What is the latest news about VCCS sustainability and conservation efforts?

In March 2021, then-Governor Ralph Northam signed an Executive Order aimed at reducing Virginia’s reliance on single-use plastics (see press release here). As a result of this Executive Order, the Shared Services center executed a number of key contract modifications that are currently in effect (as of May 2022). Those contract modifications can be found here.

In March 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed an Executive Order which promotes recycling, reducing waste and encourages the creation and relocation of clean technology companies that are involved in recycling-related issues to Virginia. (see press release here)

 

Our Goals

Reduce VCCS carbon footprint and educate future generations about environmentally sustainable policies and practices. Accomplish this through a combination of projects and initiatives spanning campus operations, academics, workforce training, college community behavior, external engagement and community outreach.

  • Incorporate environmental considerations into all aspects of planning, contracting, operations and education.
  • Make a concerted effort to progressively reduce overall environmental impact — measured by reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • Educate about sustainability and provide green jobs training across the Commonwealth.

 

Consider alternatives to single-use plastic in your daily life. If there is no alternative, remember the 3 R’s – Reduce, Re-use, & Recycle.

VCCS follows Virginia’s High Performance Building Act (March 2021) in building design and construction.

Prior to 2018, VCCS chose to follow the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED standard.

Since 2018, VCCS follows the Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards (VEES), July 2021 edition, as outlined in the High Performance Building Act.

What is LEED?

An acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), LEED is a comprehensive suite of certification systems that measures sustainability in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of homes, buildings, and neighborhoods. The LEED rating system can be applied to new construction, major renovation projects, and existing building operations.

Developed by the USGBC, LEED certification promotes best-in-class green building and design techniques that reduce negative environmental impacts while improving occupant health.

Many buildings within VCCS have achieved a LEED certification level:

LEED Existing Buildings

  • TNCC – Hampton III

LEED Certified

  • NVCC – Mark R. Warner Student Services

LEED Silver –

  • NVCC – Brault building
  • NVCC – Higher Education Center
  • NVCC – Regional Center for Workforce Education & Training
  • NVCC – Support Services
  • TCC – VA Beach Student Center
  • TCC Portsmouth – Student Center
  • TCC Chesapeake – Student Center
  • TCC Norfolk – Student Center

LEED Gold

  • NVCC – Arts & Science
  • NVCC – Center for Design, Media, and the Arts
  • NVCC – Parrish Hall
  • TCC – VA Beach Learning Resource Center

What is VEES?

Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards (VEES) was developed as a state alternative to LEED and other green building certification program by the state of Virginia. It was initiated under Executive Order 48 in 2007.

VEES applies to new and renovated state-owned facilities. VEES follows similar categories to LEED such as: Energy performance, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, and operation and maintenance.

To date, only 1 building within VCCS has achieved a VEES certification:

  • TCC VA Beach Bayside Building

Other VEES buildings currently in design or construction:

  • LFCC – Hazel Hall
  • NVCC – Reynolds
  • VPCC – Diggs Moore Harrison Complex

VCCS Efforts for a Sustainable Environment: Stormwater

What is stormwater?

Stormwater is rainfall or snowmelt that runs off surfaces such as roads, buildings, sidewalks or compacted ground. It can drain directly into streams, rivers and lakes by traveling over these surfaces and through storm drains.  These drains, commonly called storm sewers, should not be confused with sanitary sewers that transport wastewater to a treatment plant before discharging to surface waters.  Storm water entering storm sewers does not pass through a wastewater treatment facility before it flows to surface waters, including lakes, streams, and rivers.

What is the problem?

As communities grow, they often experience more stormwater problems due to their increasing impervious areas.  Impervious areas reduce the amount of rainwater that can naturally infiltrate into the soil.  This causes an increase in the volume and rate of stormwater. It can lead to more frequent and severe flooding, stream bank erosion, impaired water quality, and potential damages to public and private property.

As stormwater flows from surfaces, pollutants are collected, including trash, sediment, oil, fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste (viruses and bacteria) and other chemicals.  These contaminants are flushed to surface waters and can cause public health risks with negative impacts to drinking water sources, recreational waters and aquatic life.

Stormwater Pollutants

Pollutants are introduced to stormwater runoff from a variety of sources and activities, including:

  • Sediment from construction sites and erosion in areas lacking stabilization.
  • Pesticides from pest maintenance.
  • Bacteria from pet wastes and septic systems.
  • Nutrients from lawn fertilizer.
  • Oil and grease from car leaks, gas stations and industrial areas.
  • Road salt and sand from snow and ice control applications.
  • Carelessly discarded trash.
  • Illicit (non-stormwater) connections to storm sewers.
  • Illegally dumped pollutants.

Leachable and erodible materials improperly stored and exposed to rain.

VCCS Stormwater Programs

Eleven of the VCCS colleges, encompassing 19 campuses, successfully maintain stormwater management programs as permittees covered under a Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) General Permit for discharges of stormwater.  Each program is successfully implemented to reduce stormwater pollution discharging from the storm sewer system at each campus to the maximum extent practicable.  The program uses an iterative process to develop and implement a variety of best management practices, including:

  1. Public education and outreach on stormwater issues;
  2. Public involvement and participation to engage the public in pollution prevention activities;
  3. Illicit discharge detection and elimination to prevent pollutant discharges from the storm sewer;
  4. Construction site stormwater runoff control to ensures proper practices during construction;
  5. Post-construction stormwater management to treat runoff from developed areas; and
  6. Pollution prevention/good housekeeping practices.

In addition, colleges implement action plans to address pollutants of concerns in local waterways, including additional practices to address impairments due to excessive bacteria, nutrients and sediment preventing these waterways from meeting minimum standards that allow for public uses such as swimming and fishing.

Additional information for each of the VCCS stormwater management programs covered under the VPDES General Permit can be found at the links below:

Mitigating Stormwater with the Development Process

As the VCCS colleges grow, new development on college campuses occurs to accommodate this growth.  VCCS implements Standards and Specifications to protect stormwater quality during development projects.  The standards and specifications are regularly updated and approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) and include provisions to:

  • Employ erosion and sediment controls (ESC) during construction while the land is disturbed and sediments is more readily available for transport in stormwater. ESC include requirement to install practices such as silt fence to minimize sediment transport to surface waters.
  • Stormwater management (SWM) controls to provide for long term protection of water quality and reduce the impact of increased volumes and peak runoff rates to downstream receiving water and properties. SWM controls include a variety of practices such as retention ponds and bioretention facilities that provide processes to remove pollutants from stormwater, detain stormwater and/or allow for reduction of stormwater from discharging downstream.

In addition, the standards and specifications include mechanism to ensure regulatory criteria for ESC and SWM are achieved, inspections ensure compliance and SWM facilities are maintained for long-term functionality.

Standards and specifications manual (PDF version) can be found here.

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