By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Pi Beta Phi’s colors may be wine and silver blue, but its new sorority house at Mississippi State University is all green.
The sorority house is the first building on MSU’s campus to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified. There are a number of standards that need to be met to ensure the house is environmentally friendly from design to construction.
“There are several categories that play into a project being green,” Architect Roger Pryor said. “We made sure that we provided special parking for fuel efficient cars and that there were bike racks available.”
The standards also specify that building materials should come from local sources to cut down on the pollution and cost caused by shipping long distances.
“All of our building materials came from within a 200-mile radius,” Pryor said. “All the brick came from Columbus, as did the concrete. The exterior woodwork is cypress, which is grown in Mississippi and Louisiana.”
Many of the materials used for building the house contained a certain percentage of recycled material. The project, which took 10 months to complete, produced as little waste as possible, and workers disposed of what waste the project did produce in an environmentally friendly way.
But the construction process isn’t the only thing green about the Pi Phi house. The house features energy efficient appliances and lighting. It was also designed to use as much natural lighting as possible so it will be sustainable in use as well.
Pryor said the sorority house’s certification is an opportunity for the university to set an example for environmentally responsible building.
“I think this is a really important step,” Pryor said. “A university should take the lead in being energy efficient.”
In addition to being the first LEED-certified building on the MSU campus, Pi Beta Phi was the very first LEED-certified fraternity or sorority in the country. While other organizations have called themselves “green,” it was important that the sorority took the extra step to become certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.
“Being a good steward to the environment is important to the women of Pi Beta Phi. We discussed this during our board meetings and weighed the benefits and importance of having third-party approval against the increased costs. We felt getting approval from a nationally recognized organization, such as USGBC, gives us more credibility,” said Leah FitzGerald, a Pi Beta Phi spokesperson. “Having the USGBC as our partner, affords us the ability to market our sustainable initiatives within the context of LEED. USGBC and LEED are widely recognized by both the public and prospective MSU students who would consider becoming Pi Phis. Another factor was the knowledge that we would be the very first sorority in the country to do this.”
The Pi Beta Phi chapter at Mississippi State started in the spring of 2009. The sorority did not have an official home until April of this year.
Chapter president, Caitlin Lesley said the girls were excited to finally have a place to hold meetings and events.
“This will be our first recruitment in the house, which we’re really excited about,” Lesley said. “I think it’s great that we have a house that is so unique and special. It’s a good way to give back to the environment.”
Lesley said the ladies were excited to show off the house to the potential recruits this week. Approximately 40 of Pi Beta Phi’s 110 members will live in the house this year.
“Pi Phi is all about leadership and empowering women,” FitzGerald said. “We have received overwhelming responses from the Pi Phi women at MSU. They are proud to live in a LEED certified building, and proud to be the first on campus and the very first in the entire country. Pi Beta Phi instills leadership values in our members.”
FitzGerald said constructing such a green house was an excellent opportunity to lead by example.