From Building State's First LEED Gold-Certified Public University Residence Hall to Saving Old Furniture, UB Becomes More Sustainable

Release Date: July 13, 2012


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Maureen Matesic, one of two upholsterers at UB, refurbishes old chairs as part of the university's efforts to promote sustainability.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There are dozens of soiled lounge chairs inside the Clement Hall workshop of Maureen Matesic.

In another time, they would have been declared surplus property or thrown away. Not today. The chairs, used by countless undergraduates in University at Buffalo South Campus residence halls, will be reupholstered and buffed for a new generation of students.

"There's a lot of life left in them. They're built to last," says Matesic, one of two upholsterers at UB.

Whether fixing old chairs or building eco-friendly residence halls, UB promotes a culture of sustainability at its three campuses. Aside from saving money, the university's efforts aim to educate, inspire and enable people, both on and off campus, to reduce their environmental footprints.

At the forefront is Campus Living, which recently celebrated William R. Greiner Residence Hall becoming the first public university dormitory in New York to be certified gold under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

The certification recognizes such eco-friendly features as floor tiling made from recycled soda bottles and low-flow faucets. One of several certified or designed LEED buildings at UB, Greiner Hall also won the "Best New Green Construction Award" at Buffalo Business First's annual "Brick by Brick" awards ceremony.

Campus Living's sustainability efforts don't stop with new buildings. Contractors saved thousands of brick pavers from the sidewalk outside of Red Jacket residence hall in the Ellicott Complex, where UB is building a new dining hall called the Crossroads Culinary Center. The pavers will be reused to create a walkway from Flint Road to the UB Solar Strand, a solar installation that produces enough energy to power hundreds of student apartments.

"In addition to having scientists and scholars at the forefront of sustainability research, UB is committed to the wise use of resources," says Ryan McPherson, the university's chief sustainability officer. "Campus Living has shown great leadership in not only reducing, reusing and recycling, but also in thinking and repairing -- critical elements to our university's sustainability strategy."

Other examples include giving students energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs in exchange for incandescent bulbs and installing electricity meters and thermostats in student apartments to encourage conservation.

Campus Living also has a "Green Cleaning Program" that focuses on using products, equipment and techniques that are less harmful to the environment than traditional methods. For example, custodians use microfiber clothes in lieu of paper towels and detergents that don't require hot water. The latter helps UB save money by not heating water for cleaning purposes, explains Don L. Erb, the university's director of residential facilities.

"We are gradually changing the culture at UB to a more sustainable future," says Erb, adding that UB ranked 14th among U.S. colleges and universities last year in green power use.

Impressive, but so are the talents of Matesic, who is better known by her nickname, "Mo." She came to UB two years ago after decades of work at Kittinger Furniture Co. and immediately saw potential in the modern-style furniture that line UB's residence halls and offices.

Chairs from Gunlocke, Steelcase and other quality manufacturers tend to last, despite year-to-year punishment from undergraduates, Matesic says, half-joking. She replaces sagging cushions and torn upholstery -- sometimes incorporating a UB logo -- in a matter of hours. She even does woodwork, if needed.

The result is newly refurbished chairs that are ready for more undergraduate abuse.

"I have enough upholstering here to keep me busy until the day I drop dead," Matesic says.

For more information about sustainability research and initiatives at UB, visit the UB Green website at

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