The Folliard Alumni Center at Florida Tech, already honored for its zero-energy design inside, has been recognized for its outside – where native landscaping and a host of eco-friendly practices are creating a sustainable and lagoon-friendly Florida oasis.
The City of Melbourne and its Beautification and Energy Efficiency Board (BEEB) visited the Center in late September to present the city’s Diamond Gems Award. Accepting were Ken Lindeman, professor and director of Florida Tech’s sustainability program, and Troy Nguyen, associate professor and a leader of the zero-energy efforts that made the building the most efficient on campus.
“The landscape now features 20 species of native Florida trees, shrubs and ground cover, all installed by the grounds crew and sustainability program students during the pandemic,” Lindeman said. The native species were purchased with a Collins Aerospace Community Grant. They include Jamaican Caper, Live Oak, Gumbo Limbo, Swamp Dogwood and Sunshine Mimosa.
There is no sprinkler system outdoors and no pesticides are used. Two pollinator gardens were created. When needed, only slow-release fertilizer is used during allowed months.
In a short presentation, Lindeman acknowledged the groups, people and organizations who helped make the Diamond Gems Award possible:
- Collins Aerospace Community Grants and the Florida Tech Development Office
- City of Melbourne and BEEB
- Florida Tech grounds crew and facilities operations
- Alumni Center Staff and Dr. Nguyen’s team
- Maple Street Natives – NatScape, which provided landscape design
- Florida Tech students, including those in the sustainability program
With the clean energy award and now the Gems recognition, “Florida Tech Is doing all the right things to be a leader in the community on sustainability and is a beacon for our community here,” said Randall Parkinson, a research associate professor at FIU and chairman of BEEB.
The Gems award, developed by Todd Cook in the Melbourne Parks Maintenance Department, was first given last year to the Florida Native Plant Society, Conradina Chapter, for Lagoon Park.
The Diamond Gems Award is the highest category of Gems awards, with Emerald the base award and Sapphire a step above. For each, at least three criteria must be met. So the Center achieved nine criteria across the three categories, including the use of Florida native plants, having gutters drain onto pervious surfaces (the gutter drains underground) and using organic mulch.
“The Diamond Award, that’s the heavy lift,” Parkinson said. “You’ve done basically everything that is important.”