A.J. Nelson, ’11, is finding his way through the world of green building while helping the University of Richmond meet its standards for sustainability.

The environmental studies and geography major transferred to Richmond after the men’s tennis team at University of Rhode Island was cut. He was looking for a university that would support his desire to go to graduate school for architecture, while still serving as captain of the tennis team.

Because of his interest in sustainable architecture, his professors encouraged him to talk to Megan Litke, the University’s sustainability coordinator, about her involvement in green construction on campus and the University’s pursuit of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for new buildings.

“I went to Megan to ask some questions, not thinking it would be anything more than that,” he says. “But she ended up offering for me to come in and help out with some of the LEED building applications.”

Nelson began by reviewing the completed applications for the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness, which is certified as LEED Gold, and Robins Stadium, which is seeking LEED Silver or higher, to get familiar with the required data collection.

He is now working with Dave Merchan, project engineer for University Facilities, on the LEED Silver application for Lakeview Hall and is responsible for verifying data, such as the number of parking spaces for hybrid and low-emission vehicles, bike racks and low-flow showerheads. He was also able to get the experience approved to meet his environmental studies internship requirement for graduation.

“You can just do a regular internship off campus, but I thought, why don’t I do one on campus?” he says.

His experiences have also convinced Nelson to pursue LEED professional credentials to supplement his education.

“LEED certification is a new thing and it will put me ahead of the crowd,” he says. “Working [with facilities] definitely prepares me to take the exam in a different way than studying out of a book.”

Nelson may even take the exam alongside Litke in the spring.

“Since he and I are both working towards the same goal at two completely different points in our career paths, it’s a nice reminder that he doesn’t have to have it all figured out as a student,” she says. “Having him and other students really understand what a LEED building is also educates and incentivizes the occupants who play a role in making sure that the building lives up to expectations.”

Merchan agrees that student participation is important for cross-campus engagement in sustainability initiatives.

“LEED design and construction shows the new things we can do to promote environmental consciousness,” he says. “Student involvement brings more awareness to the strategic planning involved in sustainability that goes beyond recycling and day-to-day measures.”