September 16, 2012

Going Platinum: Cornell’s Human Ecology Building Earns Top Rating For Sustainability

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The Human Ecology Building recently became the first on campus to receive LEED Platinum certification — the highest possible ranking a building can receive for environmentally-friendly design.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an initiative created by the U.S. Green Building Council to promote sustainable building development. The council’s rating system, according to its website, awards points to buildings according to factors such as their energy efficiency, innovative design and reduction of carbon emissions.

To become LEED-certified, a building must earn at least 26 points on a 69-point scale. Buildings that earn higher scores can be classified as Silver, Gold or Platinum buildings. The LEED Platinum rating –– which requires at least 52 points –– is the highest possible level of achievement.

The Human Ecology Building was awarded 53 points, according to Kyu-Jung Whang, vice president for facilities services. Additionally, it earned high marks for being developed on a sustainable site, limiting energy use and emissions and ensuring indoor environmental quality.

Whang also said the building was developed with the goal of significantly decreasing water and energy usage.

“The building is designed to use 32.2-percent less … water [that is safe for consumption] and 46.6-percent less energy,” he said.

Erin Moore, project associate of utilities energy management, said the building demonstrates an ongoing effort by the University to promote sustainable design.

“This is a great achievement for Cornell University,” Moore said. “A LEED Platinum certification showcases Cornell’s commitment to energy conservation and sustainability.”

Designed by Gruzen Samton Architects, the Human Ecology Building incorporates a wide range of sustainable strategies and design features that are reflected in its platinum LEED rating.

The building was made from materials that serve to improve the indoor air quality for its occupants. Its glass facade allows for “daylight harvesting” to absorb natural light to be used in place of electricity, according to Whang.

Additionally, Whang said recycling was a priority during the building’s construction, as more than 1,050 tons of waste from construction were diverted from disposal in landfills through recycling and reuse.

“We have diverted 75 percent of on-site generated construction waste from landfill, 33 percent of total building materials content have been manufactured using recycled materials and 23 percent of the materials have been produced within 500 miles of the site,” he said.

Ted Boscia, assistant director of communications at the human ecology college, said the building will soon install a feature to help keep track of the building’s energy usage.

“One exciting feature is the real-time system for monitoring the building’s energy use that will soon be connected to an online dashboard accessible to all,” Boscia said. “It has great potential to be used by building occupants to attempt to lower their energy use and by professors and students in facilities design and management to study the building’s efficiency.”

The human ecology college has attained high LEED certifications in the past. Among its other LEED-certified projects is its renovations of the east wing of Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, which earned a LEED Gold certification earlier this year, according to a University press release.

Boscia said the college remains committed to sustainability. Its floor-by-floor overhaul of MVR, scheduled for completion in 2015, is targeting another LEED Gold certification, according to a University press release.

According to Moore, the University is committed to constructing more environmentally-friendly buildings on campus in the future. The Green Building Oversight Committee –– which works to achieve the University’s green building standards –– has drafted requirements that require all construction projects costing more than $5 million to attain at least a silver LEED certification.

“These projects must achieve a minimum 30-percent energy savings compared to the baseline established by … the national standard for energy-efficient buildings,” Moore said.

Whang echoed Moore’s sentiments, expressing hope that the University will continue to focus on sustainable design.

“This is our first LEED Platinum certified building, but it will not be our last,” he said in a University press release. “Cornell’s commitment to sustainability extends to every level of leadership at the University. This platinum rating is the culmination of planning and effort by people all across campus who have been committed to this outcome for many years.”

Original Author: Yidan Xu