Cal Poly’s yakʔitʸutʸu Residential Community Earns LEED Gold Certification

exterior of housing complexstudent housing building with Chumash name

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly’s newest residential community has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for being inclusive, healthy and efficient, and home to cost-saving green building features.

Located off Grand Avenue and opened to students in September of 2018, the $198 million yakʔitʸutʸu residential community includes seven three- to five-story residential buildings, containing a total of 1,475 beds, and an adjacent four-level parking structure — all of which were designed and built with social and environmental sustainability as a primary objective. The complex also celebrates the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini language, land, people, history and future.

“yakʔitʸutʸu — which means ‘our community’ in the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini, Northern Chumash language — was named in honor of and in partnership with the indigenous peoples of San Luis Obispo County,” said Jo Campbell, associate vice president for Student Affairs and executive director of University Housing. “It was designed from the ground up to be inclusive, engaging and student-centered.”

The four-tiered LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership from the U.S. Green Building Council. yakʔitʸutʸu is the ninth LEED-certified project at Cal Poly

“Designing the space was dependent on a strong working relationship with the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini, Northern Chumash tribe,” Campbell said. “They guided the design team in choosing colors for the buildings and selected native plants for the landscaping. Our project teams also worked with the tribe to create floor-to-ceiling art pieces that celebrate the flora, fauna and character of the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini villages in the region.”

During the planning stages, social and environmental sustainability was a key requirement of the project, as well as minimizing the environmental impact on residents and the surrounding environment, while focusing on the area’s rich Northern Chumash tribal heritage.

Construction began in January 2016, bringing the project from the conceptual to an actual community where students could thrive. The campus consulted with the local yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash tribe — who partnered with Cal Poly to name the buildings in their language and recommended sustainable features and landscaping.

To achieve LEED Gold certification of the 375,225-square-foot project, the design team employed several sustainability strategies.

The site was prepared to minimize impact to natural habitats by designing the 12-acre property with a focus on providing alternative means of transportation while discouraging daily vehicular travel. 

Water demand was also addressed. The restrooms and showers throughout the complex use low-flow fixtures to reduce indoor water use by more than 30%. Outdoor landscaping features drought-tolerant plants and floral species specific to the Central Coast’s climate zone. The irrigation system is zoned according to species watering needs, site condition and sun exposure.

The property also features numerous bioswales that collect stormwater runoff and remove debris and pollution from the water before recharging the groundwater or flowing into nearby Stenner Creek.

Solar panels installed on the top level of the parking garage and at the bicycle corral near the Grand Avenue campus entrance area provide approximately 475 kilowatts of onsite renewable energy.

Construction materials also were chosen with sustainability in mind.

Much of the building materials were harvested through proper waste handling and source separation. This allowed the diversion of over 94% of its construction waste from the landfill. In addition, more than 97% of the wood installed on the project is Forest Stewardship Council Certified Wood. These wood products are harvested from sustainable forests that focus on conservation and long-term ecosystem viability.

All indoor paints, coatings, flooring systems and wood products installed on the project were certified low-emitting materials that were selected for durability, function and because they will not negatively impact indoor air quality.

Finally, Cal Poly instituted a green cleaning program to ensure university employees and building occupants are not exposed to harmful chemicals during normal maintenance and cleaning. University Housing’s Custodial Operations team trains its custodians on the safe use of cleaning chemicals and the benefits of maintaining a green cleaning program.

Ensuring student success
The residential facility is also home to a variety of other operational buildings, including the Native and Indigenous Cultural Center that seeks to embrace and encourage students to (re)connect to the traditions and cultures of Native American and Indigenous peoples.

The center aims to ensure student success by holistically supporting them and providing services rooted in de-colonial practices, community engagement, restorative healing, and native knowledge. The NAICC’s vision is to create and sustain an environment in which native and indigenous students thrive and contribute to the university efforts to recruit, retain, and graduate a diverse student population.

Cal Poly was awarded LEED Silver certification of the Faculty Offices East building in 2008 under the LEED for Existing Buildings system, becoming the first structure in the 23-campus California State University system to receive the honor. Since then, Cal Poly has been awarded Gold certification under the LEED for New Construction system for four other new buildings, and Silver certification of three existing buildings under the LEED for Operations and Maintenance system. These buildings represent nearly a third of the campus’ 6 million square feet of building space.

About Cal Poly
Founded in 1901 and part of the renowned California State University system since 1960, Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, four-year, comprehensive polytechnic public university located in San Luis Obispo, California. Known for its Learn by Doing approach, small class sizes and open access to expert faculty, Cal Poly is a distinctive learning community whose 21,000 academically motivated students enjoy an unrivaled hands-on educational experience that prepares them to lead successful personal and professional lives.


Photo information: Photos by Joe Johnston of Cal Poly.

Related Content