Monterey College of Law Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Earth Day with Ribbon-Cutting of New "Green Building"

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Monterey College of Law will hold a public ribbon-cutting for its new Community Justice Center on Tuesday, April 20th at 2:00 p.m. The new facility, located adjacent to the law school's current education center is registered as a LEED Platinum project that represents the highest standards of sustainable construction and planning. Included in the new building are two courtrooms, five indoor and three outdoor caucus areas for mediation, and offices of the law school’s Mandell-Gisnet Center for Conflict Management and the Monterey County Bar Association.

Monterey College of Law ( will host a public ribbon-cutting for its new Community Justice Center on Tuesday, April 20th at 2:00 p.m. at 100 Col. Durham Street, Seaside. The new "green building", located adjacent to the law school's education center is registered as a LEED Platinum project. LEED design and construction standards are set by the US Green Building Council and stand for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design". LEED Platinum is the highest level and most rigorous of the national standards. "The opening of a new green building in Monterey County is a great way to start off a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day," announced Dean Mitchel Winick.

Included in the new building are two courtrooms, five indoor and three outdoor meeting areas designed for mediation, and offices of the law school’s Mandell-Gisnet Center for Conflict Management and the Monterey County Bar Association. The law school initially moved to the Fort Ord campus from downtown Monterey in 2005 when it finished remodeling a 12,000 sq. ft. building for classrooms, law library, administrative offices, and faculty offices. The law school was founded in 1972 and offers a part-time four-year J.D. degree program and a two-year Masters of Legal Studies degree.

Winick pointed out that "although this is a relatively small 6,000 sq. ft. project, it represents a number of notable 'firsts'". According to project architect Daryl Hawkins of JHW Architects, "the Center is the first LEED project in Monterey County to use a design and construction team that is entirely local professional firms. Although not required under the LEED standards, it was important to the law school to give priority to local professional firms and local building materials suppliers", said Hawkins. The law school selected Ausonio Construction to serve as the general contractor. The company had previously served on the construction team for Chartwell School, the only other LEED Platinum project in Monterey County. Joe Piedimonte of Ausonio and Sharon Sarris of Greenfuse Consulting were the LEED Accredited Professionals who helped train the construction design team and provided oversight for the comprehensive LEED reporting process.

Another "first" is that the project is the first decommissioned Fort Ord military building to be remodeled as a "green building" using LEED Platinum standards. Thousands of decommissioned military buildings across the country were re-designated for possible civilian use during the base realignment and closure process that started in 1989. However, according to Dean Winick, "the new Community Justice Center may be the first project in the nation to prove that it is possible to cost-effectively remodel these abandoned buildings as 'green buildings' rather than tear them down and dump them in a land fill." Hawkins pointed out that "this project is an important educational opportunity to show that LEED Platinum standards supporting environmental sustainability are not in conflict with designing and building practical and cost effective buildings."

The new building features photovoltaic panels on the roof to generate electricity, low flow water fixtures, high efficiency mechanical and electrical components, extensive use of natural light, including skylights, bamboo flooring, and recycled carpet, bathroom tiles, furniture, and even computers. "One of the most interesting features of the new building is that we built the judge's bench out of salvaged materials from the 1950's era Watsonville Courthouse that was closed two years ago," said Winick. "The Santa Cruz Superior Court opened a brand new $18 million courthouse in 2008 and no longer needed the old facility. They allowed us to salvage materials out of the old courthouse, including the judge's bench, jury box, counsel tables, and old mahogany paneling before it was converted to administrative office space."

"We looked for every opportunity to recycle and reuse as we outfitted the new facility," said Winick. "Our conference room chairs and tables are 'rescued' from the old Watsonville Courthouse. All of the desks, chairs, file cabinets, and even computers are recycled corporate furniture and equipment. Even the leather chairs for the judges are made from recycled furniture leather."

"As an organization, once you start down the path of trying to be as environmentally aware as possible, it really changes how you look at things," said Winick. "A slightly scratched or dented desk or file cabinet is not only substantially less expensive; it represents an opportunity to keep perfectly usable furniture out of the landfill. Even though it is a brand new facility . . . we avoided the temptation of just pulling out the catalogues to order new furniture. You have to be willing to wear a few scratches and dents as a badge of honor," said Winick.

A preview of the new building shows the effective mix of new and recycled materials throughout the facility. The carpet is made from recycled materials and the bathroom tile is made from recycled auto glass. The bamboo flooring in the foyer is an environmentally sustainable material that is harvested without clear cutting forests. The wall paint and wood finishes are "non-VOC" which means that they are made without the type of volatile organic compounds that release vapor that may create a risk of short- and long-term adverse health effects in closed environments.

The outside of the building is also an exhibit of an environmentally sustainable site plan. The cinder blocks used in the front columns are a product called Integrity Block and are made through a process that uses less energy and a more environmentally friendly mix of concrete and natural materials. The "dry swale" located along the front of the building is part of a system for recapturing surface water so that it percolates back into the underground aquifer. Even the pathways that connect the two buildings enhance the recapture of surface water. "The Granitecrete walkways and back patio may look like concrete, but the unique material is semi-permeable which means that rainwater passes through the material and back into the sub-surface aquifer," pointed out Hawkins.

"An important aspect of the LEED Platinum standards is the way that people interact with the facility and the site," said Sharon Sarris, LEED AP consultant for the project. "The uses of natural light and operable windows throughout the building are important features. Also important are the design of outside meeting spaces and the integration of the pre-existing grove of native oak trees into the connecting walkways," said Sarris. "The LEED standards encourage an integration of the natural environment of the site with the building structures. This project does a great job of accomplishing this objective," said Sarris.

The public is invited to a ribbon-cutting and tour of the new facility on Tuesday, April 20th, 2:00 p.m., 100 Col. Durham St., Seaside. Mayor Ralph Rubio of Seaside will officiate at the ceremony and will be joined by Dean Mitchel Winick, Ausonio President Andrew Ausonio, project Architect Daryl Hawkins of JHW Architects, and other members of the project LEED design and construction team.

Please contact Dean Mitchel Winick at 831-582-4000 or mwinick(at)montereylaw(dot)edu if you have additional questions about the project.


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