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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Middleton’s LEED Gold Certification drives Madison’s sustainability goals

The City of Madison has sustainability goals, 13 buildings LEED certified, yet city lacks LEED Gold certification
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Marufish

The City of Middleton is the first Wisconsin municipality to secure the LEED Gold Certificate, according to a press release. The plaque dedication ceremony took place Thursday, Oct. 6 at Stone Horse Green in downtown Middleton.

The U.S. Green Building Council started LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, as a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership, according to the website. It presents a rating system for the design, operation and maintenance of green buildings and neighborhoods in order to encourage people to be more environmentally conscious.

Joining cities like Austin, Texas, Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Beijing, the USGBC now recognizes Middleton for its practical and measurable sustainable strategies, according to the website. This achievement depicts the city’s commitment to clean energy, sustainability, public health and green economy. Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Middleton Kelly Hilyard played an active role in the certification process.


Middleton has a really long history of sustainable action, and I think Middleton residents are really engaged on climate issues, Hilyard said.

When the sustainability committee was formed in 2009, it immediately launched into writing a sustainability plan, according to Hilyard. The city held meetings with community members along with stakeholder engagement. Since then, interest in climate change and working on energy use reduction has increased.

Middleton has continued to be a state and local leader in sustainability over the past decade. According to a City of Middleton flyer, it was the first city in the nation to organize an advisory referendum related to climate change.

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According to the 2018 Resolution passed by the City of Middleton Common Council, Middleton took its first step to address global warming through clean energy, joining Eau Claire, Madison and 70 other cities across the nation in becoming 100% renewable by 2050.

Middleton’s 2021 Comprehensive Plan includes new solar arrays in three municipal buildings this year and aims to meet 50% of its electricity needs using renewable energy by the end of fall. In the plan, Middleton has incentivized the installation of several solar panels and water utility pumps all over the city.

Middleton also has special programs dedicated to helping small to medium-sized multi-family housing become more efficient while reducing operating costs, according to the 2021 Comprehensive Plan.

Madison, a neighboring city of Middleton, has also been committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change. In a significant effort to advance sustainability and combat climate change, Madison has undertaken the ambitious goal of reaching 100% renewable energy becoming carbon neutral community-wide by 2050, according to the City of Madison website.

Middleton worked on a grant with Madison and other communities in Dane County to create an energy plan to provide a road map for achieving those energy goals. It was a collaboration among seven Dane County communities with an energy plan created specifically for each community.

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I feel like there’s been a really steady progression of getting more and more serious, getting more and more detailed on how we’re going to do these things instead of just making goals or wanting to be sustainable, Hilyard said. We’ve actually gotten, I think, 150 actions in our comprehensive plan that relate to sustainability.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway’s Climate Forward Agenda states Madison will achieve a significant portion of its net-zero carbon goals in the next two years. Rhodes-Conway plans to replace thousands of streetlights with energy-efficient LED lights, expand the Green Power training program and fine-tune building systems for increased efficiency to accomplish this.

Madison is committed to meeting 100% of its municipal electricity needs with renewable energy and enhancing transparency by launching a public-facing building performance dashboard, according to the Climate Forward Plan. Stormwater regulations will be strengthened to enhance flood resilience, and efforts to improve affordable housing, transportation options and connectivity are in full swing.

The agenda also details Madison’s commitment to growing a climate-friendly economy, including launching a community climate grant program, expanding green job training, implementing food scraps recycling programs and investing in stormwater and green infrastructure solutions to enhance water quality and reduce environmental impacts.

While the majority of Madison’s sustainability goals are yet to be met, it has already invested in solar energy through the city-wide installation of solar panels and building solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations, according to its agenda. Adopting electric, hybrid electric and low-carbon fuel fleet vehicles and equipment has also pushed toward the goal of being completely carbon-free.

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The recent implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit system, along with the redesigning of bus routes, represents a significant stride toward enhancing efficiency and promoting energy conservation, according to the Climate Forward Plan.

These actions complement Madison’s previous achievements, which includes the  construction of 13 LEED-certified green buildings, most of which are on the University of Wisconsin campus. Some of these include Union South, the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery building, the Education Building, Nancy Nicholas Hall and the Wisconsin Energy Institute building.

We appreciate seeing communities near campus achieving sustainability goals, such as LEED Gold certification,” UW Associate Director of Sustainability Nathan Jandl said. “We look to our community partners, research peers and best practices for inspiration as we continue to build facilities that are safe, sustainable and support the university’s mission, such as the new [Computer, Data and Information Sciences] building.

The sustainability features of these buildings include recycling waste material generated during construction, LED lighting fixtures to reduce energy use, underground parking to reduce heat absorption, green rooftops that decrease stormwater runoff and easy access to public transportation, according to the Office of Sustainability website.

Achieving LEED certification for building design and construction requires satisfying prerequisites and credits in the categories of integrative process, location and transportation, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation and regional priority.

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But despite the claims by USGBC, the process of applying for the LEED certification can take a long time, according to Hilyward.

It says the process takes about six months to a year, probably for a city, Hilyard said. Some cities with a larger staff like Washington D.C., can divide the work up and finish it quicker. But for us [Middleton], it took nearly three years.

Vice President of the U.S. Green Building Councils Hilari Varnadore said the time taken for LEED certification for a city depends on a number of factors, including the quality and quantity of the city’s data and its access to external data sets.

Other factors include whether the city already has a group or team that meets to discuss sustainability issues. But population doesn’t seem to determine a city’s pace, Varnadore said.

UW ranks 27th in the Green Power Partnership Program held by the Environmental Protection Agency. Campus Resource Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability Travis Bolmberg said green power refers to the electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.

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The Green Power Partnership Program provides resources and support to help organizations, including businesses, institutions and government agencies transition to renewable energy sources, Bolmberg said.

To be included on this list, organizations must use green power at a level that meets or exceeds the partnership benchmark requirements and agree to update EPA on their green power use annually, Bolmberg said. UW has achieved a usage of  61,115,871 kWh/year of solar and wind power, according to the EPA.

UW collaborates with the City of Madison and other communities through many means, including the Joint Campus Area Committee. UW and the City of Madison share close strategic alignment on sustainability goals and efforts. But, UW buildings are State of Wisconsin facilities, not City of Madison facilities.

Sometimes we [Middleton] can get something passed through our Common Council that Madison would love to do and will do, but they have more stakeholders — the process takes a bit longer, Hilyard said. A lot of times Madison is first because they’re trailblazers and it’s amazing. I do feel like all the cities in Dane County work together a lot.

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