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DuPage Wheaton Campus Sustainability

DuPage County's Award-Winning Campus Sustainability

For more than two decades DuPage County has been improving sustainability and environmental initiatives in the community and on its Wheaton campus. This work has made DuPage County a proud leader on multiple sustainability fronts. DuPage County was the first county in the State of Illinois to have won the Governor's Sustainability Award. DuPage County continues to pursue grants, awards, and any other means of achieving a sustainable future for its residents and maintain its leadership in environmental and sustainability programs. 

CANEC Native Plants

Campus Sustainability Projects
Native Gardens and Ecosystems

421 JTK Administration Building Native Garden - The east facing entry courtyard of the 421 JTK Administration Building is a shaded, poorly drained area. These conditions are not ideal for conventional turf grass. Rather than maintaining poor growth turf grass, the County decided to move forward with native plants that are more adapted to withstand tough growing conditions. The wettest portions of the garden are dominated by Fowl manna grass, Iris, and Grey’s sedge, all typically found in wetlands and that thrive in water-retaining soil. More than 3,000 plant plugs were installed. This garden is maintained by a contractor and the grounds division.

421 native garden of grasses and flowers

421 JTK Administration Building Native Sedge Garden - On the west side of the JTK Administration Building, opposite the courtyard native garden, is the location of the campus sedge garden. Sedges look like grasses but are quite different. Approximately 75% of a native sedge’s biomass exists underground. The deep root systems of sedges provide soil stabilization. Poor drainage in this western courtyard made it ideal for sedges. Regular weeding is needed to keep this area looking neat, but no mowing, watering, or fertilizing is necessary.

421 Administration Building Native Sedge Garden

Campus Circular Gardens - The Wheaton campus has multiple public information signs for the delivery of important campus messages. From weather to COVID-19 information, these signs are great message boards for visitors and employees. When these signs were first installed, the County wanted to minimize the signs' environmental disturbance by also planting native circular gardens. These signs were built with encircling native gardens to give both an aesthetic and ecological benefit. There are three of these gardens found around campus. 

Sign Natives - Copy - Copy - Copy - Copy

Pollinator Meadow - Partly funded with a ComEd green region grant, an extensive meadow packed with native prairie plants runs along the east side of County Farm Road. This extensive meadow provides food for visiting pollinators. Currently, County staff is assessing this meadow and ways to improve its educational value. The addition of benches and informational signs for visitors to relax with and enjoy are currently under review.

Pollinator Meadow on east side of County Farm Road

Campus Native Arboretum - DuPage County has achieved an accredited level 1 arboretum status through ArbNet. The campus has added over 1,000 native trees and shrubs since 2018. These additions are made up of 72 species from 30 genera. A diverse variety of native species supports a wider range of native insects and birds. Flowering trees and shrubs provide nectar before terrestrial plants have bloomed, a critical time for many insects emerging as the days begin to warm. Total restored native habitat on campus is about 30 acres and includes 4 campus detention basins, 6 native gardens, a prairie hillside, and 16 acres of restored wetlands and woodlands. An additional 8 acres in the floodplain will be re-planted with native vegetation as part of a streambank stabilization project on Winfield Creek in 2024.

campus walking path map gives employees and visitors a guided route to visit the most notable highlights of the County campus. From swans to the veteran's memorial sundial, there is a lot to see on campus. The "JTK" 0.6-mile path is the recommended path for those looking to view the native garden, sedge garden, pollinator meadow, and circular gardens in one trip. To note, this path is subject to construction as the campus looks to repave its noncompliant walkways and obsolete sidewalks. However, all sites will still be viewable during construction.

Solar Arrays

In October of 2023, a 164-kilowatt solar array project began on the 421 Administration Building. Materials were staged in the south parking lot before being craned onto the roof for installation. The roof of the 421 building was sealed in 2022 making it an ideal candidate for a new photovoltaic system. The solar array uses a ballasted solar racking system. This type of system securement uses concrete blocks to weigh down the panels rather than mechanically bolting the panels to the roof. This method of panel securement protects the roof from damage and minimizes any impact caused by future roof maintenance. In addition to this optimal roof timing, $50,000 was donated to the project combined with over $200,000 in Solar Renewable Energy Credits and ComEd rebates as additional financial incentives. The array is large enough to supply almost 30 homes with electricity each year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 224,000 pounds annually. The County has applied for federal funding through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) to potentially expand the system. The system can be viewed by taking the center stairwell to the 4th floor of the Administration Building. A live electrical production can be viewed here.

421 Solar Array

The other solar array on campus is a roll-out roof array located on the Jeanine Nicarico Children's Advocacy and Neutral Exchange Center. The Center is a LEED Gold certified building. The solar array pushed the LEED certification from silver to gold. The photovoltaic system produces 15,000 kWh of electricity each year and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by almost 16,000 pounds annually. A live viewing of electrical production can be viewed here.

004 installed - Copy

Campus Electric Vehicles

Zero-emission transportation is growing in popularity throughout DuPage County. With over one million visitors each year to the County Campus, showing support for electric vehicles is an important endeavor. In 2014, DuPage County purchased and installed a dual port, 7.2 kW, level 2 EV charging station in the south parking lot of the 421 Administration Building. This charger eliminates over 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year with the electricity it provides to vehicles. Both of its ports are in full use during County business hours. In response to the increasing demand for electric vehicle infrastructure, DuPage County has applied for federal funding that will supply two more dual port chargers at the Judicial Office Facility.

421 Charging Station

Reduced Urban Impact

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is an internationally recognized standard in building design, providing owners and operators with a framework to implement measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED standards can apply to individual buildings, homes, neighborhoods and communities. 

LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health:
- sustainable site development
- water savings
- energy efficiency
- materials selection
- indoor environmental quality

LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000 and current LEED rating systems are developed through an open, consensus-based process led by LEED committees. 

There are two LEED certified buildings on campus. The first, built in 2012, is the Jeanine Nicarico Child Advocacy Center. This building marks the campus's LEED gold-certified building. This center provides services to families with children where the parents are living apart. Since children frequently visit this building, it is an ideal location to pursue advancements in environmental and energy designs. When designing an efficient and sustainable building, it is important to consider that reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increased energy savings are only part of the well-being improvement the building is making. Reduced air pollution, improved ventilation, natural lighting, and native outdoor landscapes all improve the physical and mental health of the building occupants. DuPage County wanted to achieve physical and mental health improvements for its visiting families and employees. This desire to improve the well-being of visitors was a large contributing factor to choosing the Jeanine Nicarico Child Advocacy Center as a LEED gold-certified building. A live viewing of the photovoltaic panel system can be viewed here. The second LEED-certified building on campus is the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. This building is located next to the Jeanine Nicarico Child Advocacy Center at 418 North County Farm Road.

CANEC Native Plants

Vegetative Roof

The 421 JTK Administration Building cafeteria was the location of a vegetative roof installation in 2013. Rather than using conventional roofing materials and methods, the vegetative or "green" roof consists of a waterproof membrane, soil, and vegetation. Beneath the waterproof membrane is an electric leak detection system. A network of electrical wiring webs beneath the waterproof membrane can detect and locate any water leaks giving staff precise details of how and where to fix any breaches.

Green roofs combat many environmental problems caused by extensive urban surface area. The vegetative roof delays roof water runoff by up to 65%, offering extensive flood regulation not provided by conventional roofs. Further, urban heat islands from concrete and asphalt absorb solar radiation and lead to increased temperatures in urban environments. These increased temperatures cause increased energy usage, heat-related illness and death, and air pollution. The vegetative roof combats this by providing extra cooling via shading, reduced thermal mass, and insulation. Having roof vegetation also provides habitat for local insects and animals. These roofs are expected to last twice as long as conventional ones.

Vegetative Roof in 2013

Lighting and Energy

DuPage County is pursing efficient projects on the energy front. Electricity and natural gas consumption emits greenhouse gas emissions, costs County money, and increases reliance on third-parties for energy supply. As DuPage County expands, grows, and thrives, energy consumption increases. This makes it important for DuPage County to pursue efficiency projects and any measures that reduce its energy consumption. In every project the County pursues, energy efficiency is a priority topic. In the last decade the County has upgraded traffic signals, street lights, pedestrian signals, campus exterior lighting, bollard lighting, interior lighting at the Coroner's office, lighting at the Administration Building, cafeteria equipment, washers and dryers at the Care Center, and windows at the Care Center to increase energy efficiency. These projects alone have reduced electricity use by over 10 million kWh, carbon dioxide emissions by over 10.5 million pounds, and expenses by over $775,000. Energy consumption and its effect on the climate and the County finances continues to be a focus point for implementing efficient measures in all County projects.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning

The DuPage County Campus is considered an energy district. Buildings within energy districts are heated and cooled from a central plant or building rather than having separate cooling and heating systems. The DuPage County Campus has a central power plant that supplies most of the campus with hot and cold water that is used by the campus buildings' ventilation systems to condition and heat the air. 

Many of the buildings on campus are over 50 years old. The HVAC systems on these buildings are constantly being tuned or retro-commissioned to improve energy efficiency. Recently, the County Jail, Care Center, Judicial Office, and JTK Administration Building had projects that involved retro-commissioning of the dated HVAC systems. These modernized, tuned systems reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 1.5 million pounds and energy costs by over $100,000 a year. Starting in 2023, the JTK Administration Building's HVAC system began to be replaced with a significantly more efficient system.

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