Two months after the completion of the Stetson-Sawyer project’s initial stage, the College is very near to achieving a silver level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the North and South Academic Buildings.
According to Stetson-Sawyer Committee co-chair Michael Brown, the buildings are virtually assured of receiving the rating once the appropriate documentation has been filed. The buildings will be the first on the campus to achieve the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) silver rating in recognition of their sustainable design and construction process.
The LEED certification system is based on a point scale considering measures within the five categories of sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. A building must achieve a minimum of 26 points of a possible 69 for the lowest level of certification, a minimum of 33 for silver, 39 for gold and 52 for platinum, the highest level. Brown described a central objective of the USGBC as “creating a market for sustainable materials at competitive prices,” noting that environmentally friendly materials often are difficult to purchase at reasonable rates.
The College did not begin the design process with the goal of seeking certification, but according to Brown, the LEED criteria represent “good construction techniques” and a logical evolutionary path for the project. “The fact that these two buildings will be LEED certified even though the decision to seek this formal recognition came well after the design process was well advanced reinforces our sense that the College … had already been paying close attention to the energy and resource use issues that are at the heart of the LEED process,” said David Pilachowski, the Committee’s other co-chair.
Other members of the administration and the Stetson-Sawyer Committee stressed the importance of seeking LEED certification in demonstrating the College’s commitment to sustainability goals set by the Board of Trustees.
“Prospective students and other visitors, as well as students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents now generally recognize this set of industry standards as a firm commitment on the part of the College to construct the most sustainable buildings possible,” said Steve Klass, vice president for Operations. In addition, working toward the goal of certification formalized the focus on energy modeling throughout the design and construction process.
The College has taken a variety of measures to improve the sustainability of the two buildings, resulting in a total of 14 design credits already awarded. Among these credits, the buildings use 40 percent less water than the typical building and include green roofs. And over 90 percent of spaces see sufficient daylight. Throughout the construction process, nearly 75 percent of waste was recycled, 20 percent of materials were sourced locally and 20 percent of materials came from recycled sources.
“You’re constantly weighing cost versus effectiveness,” Brown said. “It’s a very complex set of tradeoffs.”
One of the most important aspects of the LEED certification process is its emphasis on documentation of sustainability efforts in tracking the progress of the project. “Typically in a building project, we have detailed records for project schedule, financial accounting, design changes, number of accidents – but have not been so rigorous on accounting or monitoring environmental aspects of the building project,” said Stephanie Boyd, director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. “Often just asking for documentation clearly signals to project participants that these are important aspects.”