The U.S. Green Building Council has announced LEED platinum certification for the two newest residence halls at the University of Arizona. This is the first residential project to earn LEED platinum in the state of Arizona and the second LEED platinum designation for the UA.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized mark of excellence that provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design.
Buildings receive a total number of points determined by a variety of categories. The number of points results in the level of LEED certification: basic, silver, gold and platinum.
The LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health:
- Sustainable site development
- Water savings
- Energy efficiency
- Materials selection
- Indoor environmental quality
"Sustainability takes a team effort, from contractor, architect to student groups and administration. To get that third-party verification that we have achieved, platinum is something to be proud of. It reflects the highest level of sustainability. We went in with a goal of achieving silver, and to have achieved platinum is pretty amazing and relatively unheard of," said Peter Dourlein, assistant vice president of Planning, Design & Construction at the UA.
The buildings are mixed-use residential – in addition to the large student housing component, they include office suites, a conferencing center, living-learning classrooms, multiple study and gathering areas and extensive student amenities and courtyards.
The state-of-the-art halls, built in part from recycled materials, feature many sustainable elements including passive water harvesting, drought tolerant landscaping, low-flow showerheads and dual-flush toilets. Also, nearly 7,000 tons of construction debris was diverted from the landfill, and nearly 2,500 tons of on-site generated construction waste was recycled.
The student rooms feature "smart thermometers" that recognize if the room is unoccupied to reduce energy use, "green outlets" that shut off power when room is unoccupied, and windows that allow maximum outdoor light and direct ventilation.
A few of the most significant elements are roof-mounted solar panels to provide a significant portion of the hot water needs and strategically located building overhangs and awnings to maximize protection of the windows from the hot Arizona sun.
Both halls also feature web-based software that can be accessed by students to monitor the amount of energy the building and analyze utility data, and allow for the comparison and contrasting use of energy.
Dourlein said the LEED certification is not just about energy efficiency, it is also about creating an overall healthier environment, living in unison with the surrounding environment and engaging the student community.
"The UA campus is itself a living learning laboratory for sustainability. We will now monitor and see how the new designs and new technology impact the building and its occupants. While the construction may be done, the outcome on the occupancy is the real proof in the pudding. Over time, we will reevaluate energy use and other sustainability measures to see how we are doing and we improve from the experience."