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placeholder April 20, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA

Three Questions

Bishop O'Dowd center awarded top certification

Of the approximately 100 LEED platinum certified facilities in all of Northern California, only a handful are school projects, at institutions such as Stanford University, UC Davis and Mills College.

Andra Yeghoian
Add Bishop O'Dowd High School to the prestigiously green list. The Center for Environmental Studies, which was completed in spring 2014, features two indoor laboratory classrooms, outdoor classroom space, restrooms and an office, and views of San Francisco Bay.

"It is extremely rare and particularly laudable that the O'Dowd CES project, a privately funded high school facility, is LEED platinum certified," Kerwin Allen, of the O'Dowd Board of Regents said. "It underscores O'Dowd's commitment to lowering the school's carbon footprint."

The person responsible for keeping that footprint appropriately sized is Andra Yeghoian, an educator with more than a decade of private and public school experience and an MBA in sustainable systems. Yeghoian serves as the school's director of sustainability.

The Catholic Voice asked her how the platinum certification was achieved, and what she hopes Bishop O'Dowd students learn in this center.

How did the Center for Environmental Studies achieve Platinum certification?

LEED, a third-party verification program through the U.S. Green Building Council, aims to make buildings healthier and safer for occupants and the planet.

There are four levels of certification, with platinum being the highest, in a broad spectrum of building elements, including site selection and development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, waste management, indoor environmental quality, innovation and educational value. Some of our highlights include:

• Sustainable energy practices: Rooftop photovoltaic panels, natural lighting, in-floor radiant heating system and a natural ventilation system that keeps the building cool without energy-extravagant air conditioning.

• Sustainable water systems: A 4,300-gallon rainwater harvesting system that reduces domestic water consumption, and stormwater rerouting into permeable areas such as bioswales and rain gardens.

• Resources and materials: Items used for building metal, wood, paint, concrete, insulation are recycled, local, non-toxic, durable and energy efficient.

• Building systems: A real-time "dashboard" screen displays the electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems, as well as weather and indoor air quality, which can be used as a teaching tool with students.

What is the director of sustainability's role?

The director of sustainability serves as the sustainable conscience of the school, and an advocate for shifting the behavior and culture of the Bishop O'Dowd community to then be aligned with sustainable principles.

Ultimately, the director of sustainability at Bishop O'Dowd oversees initiatives that aim to equip students with the tools, resources and life experiences to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just and economically viable world.

"Kinship with creation" is an O'Dowd charism. How is this built?

The CES is an extension of our Living Laboratory (Living Lab), a three-acre certified wildlife habitat and outdoor classroom that aims to empower people to be stewards of the Earth, humanity and livelihood. In the Living Lab we are able to dissolve the walls between the classroom and the real world, which connects students to the natural world, provides a deeper sense of place, and cultivates community building.

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