As a nation actively trying to reduce its carbon footprint, it only makes sense that universities and colleges get in on the action and receive recognition for their efforts. That’s where LEED comes in.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is the nation’s leading advocate of sustainable design. LEED promotes a building certification program that rewards environmentally friendly construction.
To receive LEED certification, buildings must satisfy prerequisites to earn points. The more points accrued, the higher the certification. Through use of low environmental impact materials and design methods, as well as giving special attention to natural lighting, low maintenance landscaping and other environmentally sensitive products and designs, buildings can be awarded silver, gold or platinum certifications.
The University of Arizona Student Recreation Center became the first platinum-certified facility in 2010 after adding a 54,000 square foot structure. The university originally targeted the silver certification, but easily accrued enough points to receive the gold certification. Once construction began, the team realized that the additional points required to receive platinum were manageable. The university received the platinum certification and overstepped the requirements by four points.
With the facility’s impressive energy efficiency, the platinum certification is fitting. The structure has passive solar measures such as optimal building orientation that allows daylighting in 99 percent of the occupied spaces, opaque walls on the east and west sides, deep roof overhangs and 54,000 square feet of cool roofing. Smart synchronization saves nearly 51 percent of energy costs. Using local materials and recycling construction waste were several ways the university increased their points.
Eastern Washington University (EWU) initially catered to the silver standards while renovating the University Recreation Center in 2008. The structure itself includes masonry and metal panel with metal and membrane roofing. It utilizes natural lighting, water saving efforts and energy efficiency. All the way down to dual flushing toilets, waterless urinals, motion-censor lighting in offices and automatic faucets, the facility is as green as can be.
As it turns out, EWU was so close to receiving the gold certification; they put off the inspection, spent some extra money, and passed on the silver.
Jamie Gwinn, URC operations manager at EWU, said that although the gold certification cost the university extra money and several more months of construction time, the incentive was there. “Being a state institution and using student dollars, we wanted to create a minimal environmental footprint,” he said. “We tried our best to minimize the footprint on the environment and do everything we can not to create more waste than what we need.”
When asked whether the money and time spent were worth it, Gwinn said it depends on the individual facility. “While the novelty of going green is a good thing and it can be a very good thing for some places, other places aren’t even really looking at it,” he said. “It just depends on the facility and the geographical area. Overall it’s a good thing to try to do, going back to the footprint, but it’s a lot of preferences.”