West Valley College LEEDs the Way


The setting of West Valley Community College, built amid old-growth oaks and along a clear running creek, stands out as one of the school's critical assets. Faculty, staff and especially students, recognizing this fact, sought to transform the campus itself into a learning opportunity, while setting the bar high for environmental stewardship.

Launched in early 2012, West Valley’s LEED Internship Program began as a vision to align the school’s facilities department with its green design education department. Through the program, faculty, staff and students work together to establish, design and implement the school’s sustainability policies to create healthier buildings, reduce the consumption of resources such as energy and water and manage waste effectively.

Through research and active participation, the student interns support the Facilities Department’s efforts on several of its ongoing new construction and modernization projects. The interns have also been instrumental in bringing existing processes up to LEED standards under the LEED EBOM (Existing Buildings Operations Maintenance) program. San Jose-based firm Aedis Architects has been assisting the interns and West Valley in achieving LEED certification for the school’s Fox Technology Center. 

“We saw the Fox Building as an opportunity to pilot a new approach to connecting it all—education, internships and jobs in green design. The building is the newest on campus. Although it was not designed to LEED standards—it certainly can be operated as one,” said John Diffenderfer, principal architect at Aedis.

As a result of just last year’s effort, the campus will now see Green Seal certified cleaning agents, 50%-70% reduction in consumables waste, and 40% of ongoing consumables purchasing will meet standards for locally extracted and post-consumer/industrial content. Performance monitoring will be performed by students.

The program takes advantage of the new initiatives championed by the State Chancellor’s office: the Sustainability Master Planning Template and the USGBC Community Green program. A December Board of Trustees resolution to pursue a District-wide assessment and plan is a testament to the impact that this grassroots movement has had on the community. “Because of the dedication and the passion of the interns, sustainability has moved to the top of the college’s agenda,” said Anna Harrison, the associate faculty member who spearheaded the internship.

Harrison initially recruited a handful of students from her department of interior design but the movement now involves students from various disciplines across the college. The projects include campus buildings, but also native planting, storm water management and the restoration of Vasona Creek. These aspects relate to many college departments—biology, landscape architecture, geography and so on. “The whole campus is like a laboratory,” said Taylor. “The buildings and the grounds themselves are part of our curriculum, instead of just boxes where people go and sit and listen to a lecture.” 

After less than a year, the impressive payoff has become apparent. Harrison says, “We can go to the state and say, ‘Look, we’re providing an educational environment that is desperately needed in the state’s emerging green economy.’ ” The program also gives West Valley an edge. “We’re attracting better faculty, we’re attracting better students, and we’re staying competitive,” said Taylor. “The interns are making sure we’re not wasting energy, we’re not wasting water, and we’re not wasting time. You can do well and do good. And we’re doing it in a beautiful way.”


Comments (0)


Annual Sponsors


Platinum Sponsor


Platinum Sponsor


Gold Sponsor

Rudolph and Sletten

Gold Sponsor


Gold Sponsor


Gold Sponsor

U.S. Green Building Council -
North California Chapter

560 Mission St. Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 659-9404
Email: info@usgbc-ncc.org