The lush green spaces that surround the Quad. The motion-sensitive lights that shut off when rooms are unoccupied. The use of paints, carpets and other flooring materials low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). None of those decisions was made by accident.
All were made with an eye toward green — both the environment and cost-saving energy efficiency. Three of UNCG’s newest building projects share a gilded distinction: All are LEED-certified, meeting and exceeding some of the highest standards for sustainable building.
The School of Education building, Jefferson Suites Residence Hall and the renovation of the historic Quad residence halls have been certified either LEED Gold or LEED Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council.
All major building and construction projects at UNCG are designed to meet, at minimum, LEED Silver standards, says Jorge Quintal, UNCG’s associate vice chancellor for facilities. That’s an affirmation of sustainability as one of the university’s core values as written into the university’s Strategic Plan.
Upping the university’s sustainable building standards “clearly recognizes the interrelation between people, the environment and the return of invest of our economic decisions and aesthetics,” Quintal says. “Part of the reason why the Quad wasn’t demolished was because we value the beauty of the existing buildings.”
The focus on sustainable building also is in keeping with a 2007 legislative mandate which requires that all new state construction consume less energy and water than previously allowed. That mandate encouraged the transition to sustainable construction for the university, Quintal said, and also helped facilitate important conversations with the local design and construction communities surrounding environmentally sustainable building.
The results are apparent in cold, hard dollars. For instance, in the LEED Gold-certified School of Education building — the campus’ first LEED-certified construction project — the $47.5 million building’s sustainable design is estimated to save the university about 35 percent on energy costs.
The LEED Gold-certified Quad Residence Halls, the most recent project to earn that distinction, were designed to achieve 30 percent energy reduction and reduce water use by 40 percent.
And design elements of the $31.5 million LEED Silver-certified Jefferson Suites Residence Hall are projected to reduce energy use 24 percent and water consumption 36 percent compared with a typical new building of the same size. The building is expected to save more than 50 percent of the annual natural gas consumption through the use of high-efficiency condensing boilers. Other energy and water-saving technologies to help achieve these savings include: high-efficiency chillers, exterior lighting that reduces electrical consumption by 50 percent, water-efficient landscaping, and motion sensors to automatically control lighting and HVAC.
“Reducing utility costs allows the university to redirect the savings to other university priorities,” Quintal says.
Recent projects also earned points for the inclusion of elements that promote alternative transportation, such as indoor bike storage in the Quad and storage in the School of Education.
More LEED certifications could be on the way, Quintal adds. The recently completed Spartan Village and Moran Commons renovation were built to LEED Silver certification standards, and the new Student Recreation Center and Police Station have been designed to meet that standard as well.
Story by Lanita Withers Goins, University Relations
Photography by David Wilson, University Relations