Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I am pleased and proud to join you today for this very special celebration. The State Hygienic Laboratory represents one of the University of Iowa’s longest and most important commitments to the common good and public welfare of all Iowans. The Lab’s innovations have been many, and its impact on the lives of all of our state’s citizens has been profound. Almost two years ago, we celebrated the opening of this remarkable facility that all Iowans can be proud of. After many years in inadequate facilities, we were—and remain—grateful that this critical organization is now able to do its work in a building commensurate with its tasks and its significance.

This building is much more than just a laboratory facility, though. It represents a promise that we have made to the people of Iowa for over one hundred years—to protect them and to help ensure we live in the healthiest, most environmentally safe state possible.

Central to the healthy future of our state—as well as our entire nation and world—is a commitment to sustainability. That is why, four years ago this month, on Earth Day 2008, I challenged the University of Iowa to make sustainability central to its mission. It’s easy to claim to be “green” by making a few token gestures. The more difficult—and far better—path for us to follow is to weave a commitment to sustainability into the very fabric of the university enterprise. That is the path we chose to follow four years ago, and the one we remain committed to today.

We have made major changes to our energy production and usage, to our recycling programs, to our vehicle fleet, and to our curriculum. But the depth—and permanence—of our commitment to sustainability is also reflected in our bricks and mortar. We want to literally build sustainability into our campus. That is why every new construction and major renovation project is now based on LEED principles, and that is why our LEED-certified facilities staff has more than tripled in the past three years.

Any LEED certification is wonderful. But we are especially proud when we are able to achieve such high standards as Gold certification. We have always been able to point to the State Hygienic Lab with pride. Today, we celebrate that we have one more very significant reason to do so—we have met the gold standard of sustainability in this tremendous facility.

Of course, today is about more than the facility itself. The State Hygienic Lab is not so much about germs and diseases as it is about people—as I said before, it’s about the health and safety of our people. Likewise, the Lab is about more than the building itself or the equipment inside it. The Lab facilities, too, are about the people who work here in the service of Iowans—the technicians, the researchers, the administrators, the teachers, the students.
The State Hygienic Lab is a wonderful example about the integration of the technical and human dimensions of our mission. So it’s not surprising to me to know that the new building was constructed through a process that involved not just architects and environmental designers, but also the very people who work here. We needed and wanted a lab that met the operational needs of its expert staff, and we got it through collaboration and consultation.

Our Lab staff understand many aspects of the human relationship to the environment better than most on our campus. What we have accomplished in the new State Hygienic Lab, then, is the right synergy between knowledge, dedication, and service—and that has extended to the building’s design and its sustainability achievements.

It bears repeating—I am very, very proud of the Lab’s LEED Gold certification. I am even more proud that this certification is a reflection of the gold standard that the people who work here have set for serving the people of Iowa.

I offer my thanks and congratulations to all the staff, designers, architects, construction team members, legislators and other public servants, donors, and supporters who have made this celebration possible. You are all truly golden.