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New RAW plaza boasts earth-friendly elements


  • July 22, 2011

On a recent summer day, senior Erica MacDougal sits in an eco-friendly teak wood chair in front of the Recreation and Wellness Center on the Hayward campus, sipping iced tea while tapping away on her laptop. While the plaza provides a sunny new spot for students like MacDougal to study, it’s also helping the university meet its goal of becoming increasingly environmentally conscious in its design.

“It’s great to sit here and study,” MacDougal said. “The sound of the fountains is relaxing. It drowns out any outside noise.”

The majority of the plaza’s features, from lighting to greenery, were strategically planned to accommodate the university community with comfort in an ecologically sustainable way, said Ric Williams, grounds manager and landscape architect for CSUEB.

Designed and installed by Williams and his team, construction on the plaza began in summer 2010. Since its completion in early 2011, it has provided an area where students, staff and faculty can study, lounge or enjoy their Jamba Juice drinks after a tough workout, surrounded by six fountains. 

“The plaza has appeal without high maintenance or excess water use,” Williams said. “(CSUEB) is developing a campus that speaks to the generation that is realistic about sustainability.” 

For energy efficiency, seven light-emitting diode (LED) lights were installed around the plaza. They are the first of their kind on campus. On average, each light uses 80 percent less energy than an ordinary incandescent bulb and has a lifespan 50 times longer. 

Custom designed and made out of 40 percent recycled concrete, 18 seating pads were placed along the outer edge of the plaza. Each is sprayed with an eco-friendly sealant, making cleaning and maintenance easier. 

Approximately 50 chairs and 10 tables made of plantation-grown teak wood are arranged around the plaza. Teak wood is green-certified as a sustainable building material, because it is harvested in locations where trees are renewed. The wood is water-resistant and does not feel too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter, Williams said. The chairs and tables are placed next to six fountains in the middle of the plaza.

“It’s the perfect place to go on campus when the weather is nice,” MacDougal said.

Carpinus betula trees, commonly known as hornbeams, were planted along the sidewalk adjoining the plaza in soil that includes ground-up green waste. As they mature, the 57 column-shaped trees are expected to create a wall of shade near the plaza seating. Williams chose hornbeams, because they don’t require as much water as other varieties and shed fewer leaves and branches. They require minimal pruning, don’t attract insects and never need to be sprayed with harsh chemicals, he said. 

“The Rec and Wellness plaza is the gateway to our campus,” Williams said. “Wherever possible, (CSUEB) will move towards putting in sustainable products.” 

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