The Green Column #17

Green Building, Green Campus, Green Planet

December 20, 2009—The United States Green Building Council (USGBC), developer of LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), reports that 30 percent of the total annual energy used in the United States is consumed by buildings.

With this in mind, architectural firm DLR Group and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have collaborated to ensure the design for the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, now under construction at 1505 S Street, embraces sustainability.

In March 2006, UNL students voted to support the new Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center through student fees. “The students were very interested in creating a building that is environmentally friendly,” said Charlie Francis, director of Nebraska Unions.

John Marker, associate to assistant vice chancellor, is keenly aware of the environmental urgency prevalent in young adults. “Environmental stewardship is a relevant and important concept to my sons at a much deeper level than it was when I was their age,” said Marker. “For many, it’s the most important issue of their generation.”

“The key to sustainable design is for the client and designer to be on the same page as to what is sustainable and what is better for the environment,” said Ed Leach, DLR Group principal, and project manager for the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center. “With a common set of goals, a commitment to sustainability can come with little or no additional construction costs.”

Now that LEED certification is more widely known and understood, it hasn’t been a big jump for the university to get LEED certification for its buildings. A commitment to sustainability means equipment doesn’t need to be replaced as often and requires less on-going care and maintenance. This generates hard cost savings and frees human resources to address other needs on campus.

“The university takes a long-term approach when purchasing mechanical equipment,” said Paul Couture, manager of Architecture and Engineering Services at UNL. “This means making each dollar invested pay back in the greatest way possible. Buying quality, longer lasting equipment today is a strategic, long-term investment by the university.”

Ultimately there is increased return on investment for the university and residents of Nebraska through a more efficient use of the tax dollars allocated for the university. In other words, a benefit of sustainable environmental practice is good stewardship of the public funds.

“UNL has always been committed to environmental stewardship,” said Marker. “Efficient, easily maintained energy management control systems save money and resources. Our landscaping efforts have also evolved through xeriscaping, using native plants that require less water. We are entrusted with public funds and UNL has been committed to conservation since day one; it is a smart investment.”

For the design of the Multicultural Center, smart choices for materials during design, along with green construction practices, contributed to a sustainable building. The site for the new building was formerly a parking lot. By building within the existing UNL campus, the site has already been developed and no additional farmland is encroached upon. This helps to protect existing habitat or “greenfields” so natural ecosystems remain undisturbed.

The construction phase for the Multicultural Center also provided many opportunities for environmental sensitivity. The original parking lot asphalt was broken up and collected for recycling along with the waste from construction. The existing lightposts were carefully removed and will be reused at another site on campus. These measures not only contribute toward LEED certification but also minimize landfill waste.

Other choices in building construction which impact a building’s environmental efficiency include increasing insulation, using high efficiency window glazing, using locally produced materials, and the use of low-VOC paints, carpets and finishes. By choosing locally manufactured materials, fuel used to transport materials is reduced, which has an overall impact on the carbon emissions into the environment. Using materials that do not emit harmful fumes into the environment reduces the ozone depletion and improves air quality.

“As a society it has been difficult to get our minds around what it really means to be sustainable,” said DLR Group’s Leach. “As consumers, we are used to conveniences like cars and air conditioning. We don’t have to give up convenience; we just have to change the way we look at the world around us. Sustainable living involves everything: choice of clothing, where you live, work and how you get there.”

© Lincoln Green by Design