LEED certification of the North and South Academic Buildings

I sure that you’ve noticed that there is a huge construction site on campus. As soon as we opened the doors of our brand new student center, it seemed that the construction machinery, people with hard hats, and noise moved across the quad to begin the construction of two academic buildings. I imagine that you know that these buildings will provide the campus with much needed classroom space, new faculty offices designed to accommodate tutorials and great meeting spaces to foster interdisciplinary sharing of ideas among faculty and students.

What you may not know about those buildings is that we have registered them with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and will be applying for LEED certification.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the current national standard for green buildings. LEED certification is based on a point system. Much the same way that a teacher evaluates a student’s academic achievements and assigns a grade, USGBC has devised a system to evaluate and rate the sustainable achievements of buildings.

The LEED rating system considers the design and construction of buildings in 5 categories typically associated with high performance buildings: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. An additional category for Innovation and Design offers an opportunity to earn points for green features not included in the basic five categories.

A total of 69 points is available and 4 levels of certification are possible:

  • Certified 26-32 points
  • Silver 33-38 points
  • Gold 39-51 points and
  • Platinum 52-69 points.In addition to achieving points for sustainable features, several prerequisites have been included to ensure that all projects meet minimum standards in a number of categories.
  • While all the work is not yet completed to determine conclusively the certification level of the North and South buildings, it is expected that LEED Silver certification should be within reach. It is certainly gratifying to see, that while the final decision to apply for LEED certification did not occur until after design was complete, the efforts of the building committee and the design team to develop a green building are likely to confirmed by a nationally recognized organization.

    Some of the building features that may contribute to achieving LEED certification include:

    Sustainable Site Design: We have constructed an underground structure that will remove the total suspended solids and other pollutants in storm water to reduce potentially detrimental impact on receiving waters. We will delay the release of storm water during rain events through the use of a retention facility located behind Dodd House, reducing the peak flows carried through the municipal storm system. By providing bike racks near the building and thoughtfully planning the parking spaces available at the center of campus we hope to discourage the use of automobiles for local commuting. We will be incorporating green roofing technologies into a portion of the roof. And we expect to designate preferred parking spaces for low emitting vehicles.

    Water Efficiency: By installing waterless urinals and low flow fixtures, we expect to reduce water consumption by more than 40% over a typical building. Outdoors, we will further limit the water use by employing efficient landscaping practices — as we do elsewhere on campus.

    Indoor Environmental Quality: We are employing Indoor Air Quality Management practices to ensure worker safety during construction and a healthy environment after construction for building users. Our plans include “flushing out” the buildings with fresh air prior to occupancy to remove lingering chemicals associated with building products. We have specified the use of low emitting materials in the construction to reduce volatile organic compounds typically found in building materials such as adhesives, paints, carpeting and composite wood products. Once the building is open for use, carbon dioxide sensors will control ventilation rates to ensure that the appropriate levels of outdoor air are supplied to occupied spaces. We have designed controls for the lighting and thermal systems in individual offices so that occupants can manage the comfort of their working environments. Daylighting strategies have been used to improve comfort and productivity of building occupants. Studies have shown that students whose learning environments are lit naturally perform much better!

    Material and Resources: Our construction managers have been working diligently to recycle construction waste generated on site. While finding cost effective recycling options for all waste streams has proven challenging, at least 50% of construction waste will be recycled. We are also striving to purchase recycled materials whenever possible and have estimated that over 20% of materials will be manufactured locally.

    Energy and Atmosphere: To ensure an energy efficient design we have employed variable speed pumping, high performance glazing and insulation, and automatic lighting controls. Demand control ventilation and occupancy sensors will be used to set back temperatures and ventilation rates in unoccupied spaces. Reducing ventilation in unoccupied spaces not only minimizes fan energy used to bring in fresh air when it is not needed, but helps us save energy associated with cooling and heating that air. In addition, faculty can precisely control temperatures in their offices so that heating and cooling energy can be minimized when they are away for extended periods. While our energy model used to evaluate the potential energy performance of a building has not yet been completed, we expect that this building will consume 10-20% less energy than building performance standards set by ASHRAE 90.1 2004.

    We are also planning on applying for Innovation and Design credits for our exemplary ‘green’ cleaning practices and exterior management practices.

    As I mentioned, we won’t know for sure the level of LEED certification this project will achieve until we complete the LEED documentation; the final touches are put on the building, and faculty and staff and students move in at the start of next academic year. Many of the LEED points are dependant upon confirming that the construction practices meet the required standards and that building performance has been verified. We can apply for Design credits as soon as we complete the required LEED documentation. Construction related credits must wait until we occupy the building.

    We should have a better idea of how we are doing later this year. We will let you know about our progress along the way.