Case Study: UCSD John Muir College

In Blog, Design Resource by Morgan Dix

Summary: In 2018, DCI installed modern locally crafted hardwood furniture at UCSD as part of their initiative to refurbish the storied John Muir College, a live learn community dedicated to nurturing and implementing green values and practices.

muir college UCSD

A few years ago we collaborated with UCSD on their Mesa Nueva Graduate Hall project. We developed three unique custom-designed items to flesh out the functionality of their new graduate studio apartments.

As a follow up, UCSD reached out to us to refresh the apartment living rooms in John Muir Residence Hall.

John Muir College has a storied history as the live learn college for students committed to sustainability and environmental studies.

Sustainability at John Muir College UCSD

Named after the legendary conservationist John Muir, the College offers students a variety of ways to contribute to the sustainability mission of the school.

In his spirit, Muir College supports local, national, and global efforts to preserve the natural environment and to promote environmental sustainability in energy and water use, waste disposal, food production, and other practices. Since 2011, at the college’s annual Earth Week Organic Lunch in April, we honor individuals whose work has contributed significantly to the cause of sustainability and environmental preservation by naming 2-3 Muir College Environmental Fellows.

Residence halls at muir college UCSD

In terms of sustainability education initiatives, they have many. For example, the College offers the Muir Writing Program, which focuses on issues relating to the environment and sustainability.

They host a freshman seminar called The Greening of Muir College. Residents develop research projects to mitigate Muir’s carbon footprint and enhance the college’s green practices.

There’s more including additional courses and an interdisciplinary environmental studies minor. The College also awards and recognizes students, teachers, and researchers who make outstanding sustainability contributions to the school.

And that’s just John Muir College.

We’ve highlighted UCSD’s commitment to sustainability in a previous case study, but recent developments are moving UCSD even further into the vanguard of green practices on campus.

UCSD’s Path Breaking Sustainable Practice

In 2018, UCSD was ranked by the Sierra Club in their Cool Schools Ranking in the top 16 percent of 269 schools in the U.S. and Canada for their sustainability efforts.

Recently UCSD was recognized in an article from College Planning & Management entitled Living and Learning Green as part of their Sustainable Campus Trends and Innovations section.

The article highlights UCSDs Climate Action Plan (CAP) which aims to achieve total climate neutrality by 2025. It also features a new and exciting development called the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN).

NTPLLN—which will house up to 2,000 students in six mixed-use buildings—weaves UCSD’s CAP into its very fabric.

Here’s just a snapshot of the innovation and sustainability hallmarks in NTPLLN.

Active and passive integrated sustainable features include a modular micro-aerobic digester, a photovoltaic system to power the parking structure, and operable windows that provide natural ventilation…The anaerobic digester provides on-site generation of electrical energy from organic food waste and materials while producing valuable enrichened liquid fertilizer for community gardens. This diverts waste from the landfill and eliminates the emissions generated from offsite trucking. The anaerobic digester acts as a closed-loop system where the conversion of organics into fuel and nutrients promotes the concept of community-based, farm-to-table-and-back-to-farm life cycle.

Renovating John Muir College

muir college UCSD coffee tableIt’s always inspiring to work with schools who have a robust and engaged sustainability mission.

Against the backdrop of this panoramic sustainability commitment, we recently collaborated with UCSD on their John Muir College restoration initiative.

UCSD project was straightforward and it featured some basic sustainability attributes.

Designing Modern Lounge Tables

First, the school needed to upgrade the living rooms in the apartments at John Muir College. The design of the building is modern, so they were looking for modern furniture in keeping with the design context of the college.

The items included end tables, coffee tables, and tv stands.

They came prepared with a vision and some inspirations for their design, which they shared with us. We took those ideas and built them out to our custom dimensions and specs to make them durable enough for student use.

In terms of the sustainable pedigree of the furniture, it was crafted locally at our Chula Vista facility, which is a short 25-mile drive from the University, and our installation team was locally based as well.

At DCI, we pride ourselves on building our hardwood furniture here in the United States. All of our FSC-controlled hardwood is locally harvested close to our sawmill.

We own the entire supply chain for our furniture. We craft our products with an unmatched level of sustainability.

modern table set for muir college UCSDThis vertical integration paired with our zero waste manufacturing and nontoxic materials places us in the vanguard of sustainable manufacturing in the residence hall furniture market.

Keeping the Furniture Out of the Landfill

There was another sustainability fun fact about the renovation at John Muir College.

The school reupholstered all the soft seating in Muir College in keeping with it’s green spirit. They refreshed the look of their existing furniture stock instead of sending it to the landfill.

In short, UCSD took the harder path but upheld their sustainability values.