The William H. and Elizabeth Gray Danforth University Center at Washington University in St. Louis has received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
The LEED rating system is a third-party certification program and a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of environmentally friendly buildings.
Photo by Joe Angeles
Beneath the Danforth University Center is a 50,000-gallon tank, which collects excess rainwater and groundwater. The water is then used to irrigate the building's landscaping.
The Danforth University Center is the first LEED Gold and second LEED-certified building on the university's Danforth Campus.
LEED-certified construction is part of Washington University's strategy to reduce its environmental impact, manage its financial resources and improve indoor environments.
"Developing LEED-certified buildings can require some initial investment," Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. "However, this is an investment that pays great dividends over the lifespan of the building.
"Committing to LEED certification is the responsible thing to do — ensuring buildings with less of an impact on the environment that will be more energy-efficient and cost-effective down the road," Wrighton said.
USGBC research suggests that buildings across the country account for approximately 12 percent of all water use, 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, 65 percent of all waste output and 70 percent of electricity consumption.
"LEED buildings consume smaller amounts of energy and water and create less waste, which reduces both how much money is required to run facilities and how much we impact the environment through greenhouse gas and other emissions and resource depletion," said Matt Malten, assistant vice chancellor for sustainability.
"In addition, good green design can also make our facilities more healthy and productive places for our campus community to live and work in," Malten said. "We are looking forward to continuing to improve all of our new and existing buildings' performances as we follow the continually improving green building practices."
The Earth & Planetary Sciences Building was the first to be LEED certified on the Danforth Campus, in 2005. The university will construct all new buildings started in 2008 or later to meet at least LEED Silver qualifications.
In order to become LEED certified, a project must earn a certain number of "points," which are awarded by the USGBC for following green practices such as building with materials with recycled content; using rapidly renewable materials such as linoleum and wool; and designing and landscaping the area around the building to deflect heat and to require less water to maintain.
A building's level of certification is based on the number of points a building earns. Platinum is the highest, followed by Gold, Silver and simply LEED-certified.
The Danforth University Center received points for following the previously mentioned criteria and incorporating many other green features, including:
• Low-flow faucets and water-conserving toilets.
• A 50,000-gallon rainwater tank below the building that collects excess rainwater and groundwater. The water is then used to irrigate the building's landscaping.
• Light sensors near every outdoor window. The sensors measure the amount of sunlight entering the room and adjust light levels to maintain an even amount of light in the space. This is called daylight harvesting.
• Showers, which gives bicyclists, rollerbladers or walkers opportunities to freshen up after arriving and encourages alternative transportation.
• The use of locally and regionally extracted raw materials such as limestone and materials used to produce concrete.
Construction projects also can receive points for using energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and lighting, maintaining open space around the site and locating the project close to public transportation.
These are all features that WUSTL as a policy follows already when designing and constructing buildings, said Nancy Marshall, project manager in facilities who led the Danforth University Center construction.
"By implementing established university facilities standards for design and construction, Washington University is already very close to achieving basic LEED certification," Marshall said.
Three recently completed WUSTL buildings — The Village East and Harry and Susan Seigle Hall on the Danforth Campus and the Genome Sequencing Data Center (Silver) at the School of Medicine — are awaiting LEED certification.
WUSTL currently is in the design or construction phase of three projects that will seek LEED Silver or Gold certification: Stephen F. and Camilla T. Brauer Hall (Gold) and Phase 1 of the South 40 project (Silver) on the Danforth Campus and the BJC Institute of Health at Washington University (Silver) at the School of Medicine.