To Be Sustainable is a Constant Balancing Act

There have been numerous queries about reducing the amount of lawn areas around the Channel Islands campus. As with most aspects of sustainability, it is important to understand how the decisions we make as individuals and the larger campus community impacts the local, regional, and global environment we inhabit. Issues such as the removal of the existing lawn area will have ripple effects to other sustainable issues that also must be thoroughly addressed before making any decision.

As a campus community, we have been reviewing the appropriateness of decreasing the amount of lawn area on campus and are in fact moving towards that goal.  Areas have already been identified that are appropriate for expanses of lawn that can be replaced with indigenous, drought-tolerant grasses and plants that require less irrigation and less invasive maintenance such as mowing, edging, and irrigation system repairs. The initial areas include the future Campus Green Central Mall (Los Angeles Avenue between University Drive and Ventura Street), the North Quad, and the lawns abutting most of the campus buildings. This will decrease the amount of potable water the campus uses and the necessary maintenance  while at the same time keeping  an attractive environment for students, faculty, staff, and the community to interact and collaborate, which supports CI’s mission.

It’s important to understand that every “green action” has the potential for creating a negative “reaction” that must be thoroughly considered before moving ahead.  One example of an adverse consequence is the potential for increasing the “heat island effect.” This means that plant materials such as cacti and other desert flora do not absorb solar radiation, and create a hotter microclimate. Also to be considered in these financially challenging times is the increased maintenance requirement and the initial cost of replacing the lawn and irrigation system with alternate plants and appropriate irrigation. In the meantime, as part of each capital project, it is our practice to use more appropriate landscaping even though it just isn’t feasible to remove large areas of lawn throughout the campus without replacing it with a more appropriate plant palate and associated irrigation.

As part of the current infrastructure improvement project, which is  all of the trenching in the streets, reclaimed “gray” water lines are being installed that will be used to irrigate most of the campus.  This reclaimed water is provided by the Camrosa Treatment Plant and is significantly less impactful on the availability of potable water to the region.  It will also be significantly less expensive to irrigate all of the grounds on campus, which will free more funds to further promote the University’s mission.

Some of the lawn areas on campus will be maintained, as they are a great asset that can be used for large events such as graduation, new student orientation and other events.  They also become places of the campus grounds that students, faculty, staff, and alumni remember and use long after they have left the University.  The truly unique and endearing qualities of this campus are the Arcadian open spaces that are framed by the beautiful historic buildings with the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance.

To be sustainable is a constant balancing act, and no one solution is exactly the right one.  But we are committed to decreasing the large amounts of lawn area around the campus, and are looking judiciously to determine what areas should be removed, which replacement plant materials should be used that are more environmentally appropriate, and what the necessary resources would be to make this happen. To assist us in this major task that will take many years to complete, we have engaged landscape consultants who specialize in creating sustainable outdoor environments  

It continues to be our goal to communicate our sustainable activities and to model those supporting behaviors so that our campus community can, in turn, educate their friends, their families, and their children about new ways of living & working. If you are interested in learning more of what we are doing to make the campus more sustainable, please contact John Gormley ( 

Design Standards

Design projects strive for flexible environments for learning and gathering to serve a multitude of functions. Recognizing that teaching pedagogies continue to evolve and change, a major goal is to make these spaces flexible for current needs, but also easily transformable in the future as the need changes with a minimum of resources (building and financial).

New buildings are designed for a minimum life span of 50 years minimum, before demolition is deemed necessary. Over time this will dramatically decrease the expenditure of resources to fulfill the campus’ mission.

New construction and renovation projects will include operable windows in most occupied spaces as feasible, allowing for natural ventilation for cooling.

Most spaces can harvest sunlight allowing daylighting in most spaces. Additionally, interior spaces larger than 200 square feet will have zoned lights, allowing for energy savings during the day.

New light fixtures will be direct/indirect to capture the reflected light from ceilings, enabling fewer watts to light the space, saving additional energy.

Where possible, all buildings will have a building energy management system to control the heating/cooling and lighting systems, thus maximizing their performance and minimizing energy use.

All drinking fountains will provide water at an ambient temperature – (chilled water will no longer be provided saving the energy previously used to chill water 24/7).

The campus only uses waterless urinals in men’s toilet rooms, saving up to 40,000 gallons of fresh water per urinal per year.

Dual flush toilets that minimize the amount of fresh water used per flush are now used in all new and renovation projects.

Interior finishes are selected based recycled content, ease of maintenance with “green” cleaning products, and consideration of local manufacturing, minimizing environment impacts, locally, regionally, and globally.

The campus specifies a minimum of 50% of wood-based materials and products used in
construction process to be certified in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Principles and Criteria for wood building components.

Adhesives, sealants, paints and finishes used for building interiors are low-emitting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) to reduce the quantity of indoor air contaminants that are odorous,irritating and/or harmful to the comfort and well-being of the occupants.

California’s Title 24 energy performance code is one of the most stringent in the United States. All new CSU construction must exceed the baseline set by California’s Title 24 energy code by 15%. All renovation work must exceed Title 24 requirements by 7 1/2%.

All building projects are required to complete a rigorous commissioning process for the building systems (mechanical, HVAC, electrical). This ensures that energy efficient systems actually perform at the promised design efficiencies, and allow campus staff to maintain them for optimal energy efficiency.

New construction installs gutters and downspouts over walking surfaces only, allowing roofing drainage to percolate into planting area.

Site Design

All site lighting shall be energy efficient “dark sky” lighting. The lighting in the South Quad is the first phase for changing out the inefficient fixtures with the new fixtures minimizing light pollution and using approximately 1/4 of the energy.

Most campus irrigation systems are converting to reclaimed water; tertiary treated water from the Camrosa Water District. This will decrease the amount of potable water used on campus.


Contractors must implement an indoor air quality management plan for construction and pre-occupancy phases of construction to ensure a healthier working environment once the building is occupied.

Contractors must divert a minimum of 50% of the total tonnage of solid waste from disposal landfills.