Integrating Sustainability Into the Learning Environment
Dana Muller and Brian Watson in Education Design, Sustainability

Lynn University International Business Center. Image © Michael Moran

When it comes to design, the higher education sector is often faced with a quandary: pursue trends or pursue sustainability?

While being trendy is a tempting premise for higher education institution dealing primarily with younger generations, institutional leaders know that sustainable strategies can have a greater and lasting impact on learning. That said, when higher education institutions integrate sustainability, they must do so in a measurable way, so that they demonstrate the merit of their efforts and the reality of its value. Daylight harvesting in classrooms, which not only saves energy but also creates an environment conducive to learning, and building management systems that monitor water and energy reduction data are two examples of the kind of measurable feedback that this sector values.

There is also a distinction between pursuing mere sustainability versus true LEED Certification, and the higher education sector understands this distinction very clearly. The current student body has spent their formative years with the understanding that sustainability is the base line of performance—the minimum. Achieving LEED Certification raises the bar, providing a tangible way for colleges and universities to express the fulfillment of their commitment to the environment and their responsibility to their community.

Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Florida, has been a model of this kind of commitment to sustainable practices in the operation of their campus. In fact, when university leaders were developing a long-term masterplan, embedding sustainable strategies was a key priority. Included in Lynn University’s masterplan were strategies including:

In the five years since the completion of their masterplan, Lynn University has made sizable strides in the implementation of their sustainability goals. The following are a few measurable achievements from the 2015 calendar year:

The Third Floor's Main Street

The latest manifestation of Lynn University’s commitment to LEED Certification is the LEED Platinum Mohammed Indimi International Business Center (IBC). This new, ground-up building was the first LEED certified project on campus and was completed at the end of 2014. The building’s design reflects the changing needs, values, and vision of the business school. The building includes faculty areas, classrooms, and collaboration spaces that are all linked by a “Main Street” corridor, encouraging interactions and idea exchanges between faculty and students.

The Second Floor's Main Street

Gensler and Lynn University worked closely to create feasible strategies that would take the IBC beyond the status quo of campus sustainability and into a new plane of efficiency and Earth care. For instance, the IBC integrates the measurement of water and energy savings in the building by comparing its usage to other similar size buildings on campus in a real-time, interactive, digital display in the lobby of the building; this engages students in the measurable success of the sustainable strategies. In addition, the integration of exterior skin design with building siting and cooling systems and the optimization of window-to-wall ratio based on building orientation saves energy by limiting solar heat gain, while still maintaining access to natural light and providing a visual connection to campus. Lastly, the team collaborated on an aggressive mechanical strategy to implement chilled beam technology. This decreased the building’s height and footprint, significantly reducing the amount of space dedicated to mechanical functions. The project funds saved through this effort enabled the inclusion of the Snyder Idea Lab, a place where entrepreneurial Lynn University alumni can launch new ventures and weave them into the campus experience.

The Snyder Idea Lab

As a key component of Gensler’s Lynn University campus masterplan, the IBC successfully embraces and manifests the masterplan’s themes of connectivity, efficiency, and growth potential to create synergies between education and business. Lynn University and Gensler both take pride in the fact that the IBC’s Certification makes it the 27th LEED Platinum Building in the State of Florida.

Find more information on the Lynn University Mohammed Indimi International Business School here.

Find more information on Lynn University here.

Lynn University International Business Center. Image © Michael Moran

Dana Muller is a Design Realization Leader and Senior Associate at the Gensler Tampa office, where she serves as a trusted advisor and problem solver to her clients. She brings her passion for making, and design excellence, to each new built environment she shapes. As a member of the Education Practice Area, Dana uses her ability to coalesce talent around each new technical and design challenge to bring a unique sensitivity to her client’s needs. Several of her projects have received design awards from The American Institute of Architects. Contact her at
Brian Watson is a Senior Associate and Technical Designer with more than ten years of design experience working with both public and private sector clients. Brian has been actively involved in all project phases, leading design, documentation, and construction administration, with a focus on dynamic learning spaces. Driven by a passion for great design, Brian understands the importance of the micro details and macro concept of a project. Contact him at
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