University of Wisconsin–Madison

Green Buildings and Beyond

LEED Silver Certification plaque, 2014 (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

Integrating Sustainability into School of Nursing Facilities, Staff and Culture

By Morgan Dorfman

The front doors of Signe Skott Cooper Hall open to a large atrium with floor to ceiling windows. It flows into Curran Commons, the open-concept seating area where nursing, pharmacy and med students encamp to study. The light, airy space is striking to be sure, but Cooper Hall is more than just a pretty building. It’s a green one, too.

The campus-wide vision of sustainability charges schools, colleges, centers and other units to exemplify “values and actions that demonstrate our commitment to stewardship of resources, respect for place and the health and well-being of the broader community, now and for the future.” The School of Nursing took that one further by developing and implementing its own sustainability mission (to be “a community that fosters and upholds environmental stewardship and the health and wellbeing of its students, staff and faculty) and wellness initiatives.

Evidence of the school’s sustainability mission includes bottle fillers on water coolers at each floor, highly visible waste and recycle containers, energy efficient lighting and other mechanical systems, commuter showers, sit-to-stand workstations, a community room with access to the green roof and desk treadmill walk stations. The commitment inspired building design and fixture decisions, certainly, and also employee wellness programming and even staffing.

“Something that is cutting edge that we have done is written in health and wellness as part of a job description that Alisa Eland- Smithburg, the facilities event coordinator, currently holds,” said Lisa Reese, director of facilities planning & operations. “Setting aside time in a job for the green team is very important for the future health and wellness of the school.”

One of Eland-Smithburgs’s responsibilities is facilitating the Healthy Environment Work Group. This ensures that someone on staff records health and wellness efforts, implements changes and measures progress.

“[E]nvironmentalism is a cause that is important to a lot of people, but I think the problem is that it is hard to make time for it,” said Eland-Smithburg. “If it’s in your job description, it’s an easy way to say, ‘Yes this is important, yes I’m making time for it,’ and then you can see more changes.”