Green buildings help U fulfill climate pact

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

New green building designs are saving the U some green.

Architects on campuses across the country are designing new buildings to be more energy efficient and less wasteful because these green designs cost less to build and maintain, said Jen Colby, sustainability coordinator for the U Office of Sustainability.

“Striving towards reduced energy is integral in getting us to a climate-neutral environment, as the president has committed us to,” said Jay Sisam, the U’s energy manager, about U President Michael Young’s signing of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment on Earth Day last year.

This commitment dedicates university campuses in the United States to work toward offsetting and eliminating their negative impacts on the natural environment. The architects and project managers of the recently unveiled Frederick Albert Sutton Building, which will house the geology and geophysics departments, made use of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification system to reduce the building’s energy usage and increase water-use efficiency, among other environmentally responsible measures.

Landscaping and efficient irrigation systems for the Sutton building will save, on average, 83,226 gallons of drinkable water in July each year. High-performance insulation, windows and cooling and heating systems will reduce the building’s energy use by 30.6 percent. Planners diverted 81 percent of construction and demolition waste from the landfill through recycling.

The LEED rating system operated by the U.S. Green Building Council has become the benchmark in recent years for energy-efficient and waste-minimizing building designs and renovations. The USGBC, which was congressionally established in 1993, developed the LEED-accreditation system to encourage the development of environmentally conscious and socially responsible communities through architecture and planning.

“The (LEED) certification is not as important as building to that level. It’s, however, a very visible mechanism of showing the community,” Sisam said. The certification is worth the application fee, which varies, and the time spent compiling the data, he said.

The Office of Sustainability is offering free guided tours today of the University Services Building, one of the new buildings on campus pursuing LEED certification.

“LEED is important to help the university build buildings that focus from the beginning to reduce energy and waste,” Sisam said. “It’s better if it’s from the beginning rather than having to go back. They just do it from the get-go and it saves on cost.”

Sisam cited the new College of Nursing Building and Utah Science and Technology Research Building complex as prime examples of how green designs can save money for tight budgets.

Renovations, such as the upgrade of the University Services Building, are significantly more costly and typically not economically justifiable. Colby said that as a result, the motivation behind most green renovations is to decrease the environmental impact.

However, the College of Nursing has found that by pursuing a silver-LEED certification, the U will save money with lower utilities bills in the future. That saving will help offset the payback time for the renovation, said Maureen Keefe, dean the College of Nursing. Utah also requires energy-efficient systems to be implemented into the building designs and recycled materials to be used for building construction.

“My initial thought was that it would be a lot more costly with the LEED certification,” Keefe said. “But, by meeting the building codes and standards that the state has laid out, we realized that we were two-thirds of the way there.” The additional efforts toward LEED accreditation, such as high-performance windows and recycled interior furnishings, have also been pursued to help make the renovation cost-neutral, Keefe said.

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The Sutton Building meets the energy efficiency requirements of LEED certification. President Michael Young?s signing of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment dedicates the U to work toward an effort to eliminate its negative impact on the environment.