WMU building gets Gold 'green' status

May 31, 2009
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KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University's College of Health and Human Services is the first building in southwest Michigan and one of only three in the state to meet national energy and environmental standards for an existing building.

According to a news release, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings, or LEED-EB, rating system puts it among one of the highest performing buildings in Michigan. The WMU building achieved gold-level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the first LEED-EB certified higher education building in the country to achieve a rating higher than silver. It is also the highest certified level for any LEED-certified building in Kalamazoo.

"We are delighted to have this national recognition for a facility we regard as a special building in its own right and a symbol of the commitment this campus has to sustainability," said WMU President John M. Dunn. "Our facilities management area is on the cutting edge when it comes to wise energy use and sound environmental management. This is a well-deserved recognition for those who planned and built this amazing facility, for those who manage its daily use, and for those who guided it through the certification process."

Work on evaluation of current energy-efficient systems in the four-year-old building and implementation of new sustainable building practices were partially funded with a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy awarded in fall 2007. Achieving gold status involved documenting sustainable practices with storm water management, site erosion and light pollution control, water usage efficiency in restrooms and landscaping, ozone-free cooling systems, recycling and waste management storage and collection, sustainable cleaning products and policies, increased ventilation standards, daylight harvesting and lighting control, thermal comfort monitoring and increased air filtration.

LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. There are several environmental rating systems, and LEED-EB is one of the newest, according to Peter Strazdas, WMU associate vice president of Facilities Management.

"It is arguably the most difficult to achieve because it not only includes design and construction issues, it places a significant focus on building operations ... the aspect of building sustainability that goes on for years past a building completion date," he says. "This process took us two years of documentation, involving thousands of documents, and changed the culture of how we maintain and operate WMU buildings campus wide."

Anand Sankey, WMU engineering director, and several facility management staff members worked on the project with Jim Nicolow, principal with Lord-Aeck-Sargent Architecture in Ann Arbor.

The 200,000-square-foot building was completed in summer 2005 and was designed by the architectural firm SmithGroup of Detroit. The facility was built with an emphasis on sustainable and renewable materials. Features of the structure include cork flooring and motion-activated lights, heating and cooling. Rice paper between sheets of glass provides translucent windows along hallways.

The building's completion brought all of the College of Health and Human Services' internationally known programs together in one location. The facility’s labs are devoted to such areas as biofeedback, blindness and low-vision studies, orthotics and motion research.

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