Estelle Siebens Science Center Earns LEED Gold Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded LEED gold certification for the Estelle Siebens Science Center at Buena Vista University. The building received a gold certification from the council in the category for existing buildings.

The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded LEED gold certification for the Estelle Siebens Science Center at Buena Vista University.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is an internationally recognized designation affirming that a building meets standards for energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

The science center received a gold certification from the council in the category for existing buildings, which focuses on operations and maintenance efficiencies rather than construction features. The science center opened in 2004.

David Evans, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, who is a member of BVU's Sustainability Task Force, says, "I am very proud that the science center has earned gold certification, a testimony both to its high original quality as a building and to the university's commitment to enhancing our sustainability efforts across campus even when doing so requires a sizable investment of time and money. In the longer run, of course, this investment will return itself many times in energy savings and other operational efficiencies, as well as through an enhanced work atmosphere for faculty and students. Many studies have shown that 'green buildings' improve the performance of their inhabitants because of indoor environmental quality, more work-friendly lighting, and other factors.

"It is also important for our students to see the university's dedication to sustainable operations, for they will be entering a work world of increasing resource constraints as well as one where at least a basic knowledge of sustainability principles is going to be a given in many professions" he adds. "Better work and living spaces that also conserve resources are a win in every respect, and our achievement of LEED gold certification for the Estelle Siebens Science Center is a potent symbol of our intention to provide the best possible learning and working environment for the citizens of the university."

The certification application process was led by BVU's Sustainability Task Force, which is chaired by Dr. Jill Rhea, associate professor of communication studies.

While the science center is an existing building there were features in the original construction that had a positive impact on the LEED certification such as high-efficiency glass, the building automation system, much of the lighting and lighting controls, and separate metering for irrigation and domestic water. "There is a huge focus on how people use the building and what resources are used in the process," says Rhea.

"BVU is trying to show with our actions how important the sustainability of the environment, humanity, and the economy are to us," says Rhea. "We aren't just making changes in the science center. We are also making changes around campus with a recycling program, hybrid cars, the Global Footprint Project for first-year students, trayless dining, social justice projects, and many other projects too numerous to mention. It's a campus-wide endeavor."

The task force worked approximately 16 months on the application process. In July 2011, Rhea attended the week-long Institute for Global Sustainability at the University of Vermont, earning a Professional Certificate in Campus Sustainability Leadership, which helped her develop a framework for leading the on-campus effort.

One of the publically visible aspects of the certification process was a required waste stream audit of the science center last spring which involved the entire campus community. The audit of the trash collected for one week showed that 40 percent of what was discarded could have been recycled, leading to changes in how trash is processed at the science center and across campus. The audit was one point of the 61 total points BVU earned for the gold certification.

Keith Schmidt, director of facilities management and a committee member, said among the many changes made at the science center were: adjusting the light levels during certain hours, changes to some of the settings on the building automation system, replacement of lights in the display cases, implementation of a recycling program, initiating a green cleaning policy that uses environmentally friendly chemicals, documenting maintenance plans, changes in outside lawn and sidewalk chemical use, creation of a pest control policy, adding a natural grass space at BVU's athletic practice facility to offset the lack of green space around the science center, and a new purchasing plan requiring that a percentage of products must meet the LEED criteria.

"What I believe the LEED certification says about BVU is that we care about the environment, people, and the economy and we are dedicated to becoming more responsible stewards of the earth and its resources," says Rhea.

In addition to Rhea and Schmidt, other task force members working closely on the project were Andy Taylor, assistant director of facilities management, and Tanya Landgraf, BVU purchasing manager. Rhea says other members of the task force also were instrumental in BVU achieving the certification. A full list of task force members and other information about sustainability at BVU can be found at BWBR of St. Paul, Minn., the architectural firm that designed the science center, assisted the committee.

BVU is also applying for LEED certification of Pierce and White residence halls, which are under the LEED "new construction" program because of the recent extensive renovation of those facilities.