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More Sustainable Square Feet

University completes first certified green construction project


The Sargent College Makechnie Study Center before (top) and after (middle), with the new study room (bottom), a renovation that earned a silver LEED certification for green building. Photos courtesy of Shaun Finn

Dark and chaotic is how Lisa Tornatore (CAS’02), facilities and events manager at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, describes the school’s Makechnie Study Center before this year’s renovation: long tables topped by aging computers where groups of collaborating students clashed with those seeking quiet study, disorganized bookshelves, and a few defunct darkrooms that served as storage space.

The new center, she says, is “lighter and airier,” with a central quiet zone featuring new computers and printers surrounded by glass-walled group study rooms, a conference room, and a digital editing suite, all flooded with natural light.

It’s greener, too. This spring, the center, named for the late George Makechnie (SED’29,’31, Hon.’79), longtime SAR dean, became the first space at Boston University to earn LEED certification for environmentally friendly building from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The use of recycled or rapidly renewable materials (such as bamboo walls and cork flooring) and energy-efficient lighting systems and electronics were among many steps that qualified the 3,000-square-foot area for green certification.

“You can see this place doesn’t look like your typical institutional study space,” Shaun Finn (SMG’11) says as he shows off a little button on the drop ceiling that measures the level of natural light and dims the overhead lights accordingly. Finn, project manager for construction services in BU’s Facilities Management and Planning, notes that the paint and the charcoal-grey carpet are both low VOC, meaning they contain almost no volatile organic compounds, which can cause health problems. “The renovation really aligns with part of the mission of this college, which is creating healthy buildings,” says Finn.

The USGBC began awarding LEED certifications in 2000. They can be applied to entire buildings or “commercial interiors” (such as the SAR study center), based on points earned for site selection, use of renewable or recycled materials, efficient water and energy systems, and other criteria. Construction projects can earn a basic certification or qualify for silver, gold, or platinum. The Makechnie Center took silver, missing gold by one point.

The new center was made of nearly 14 percent recycled material and is stocked with more than 90 percent EnergyStar–rated computers, printers, and copiers; it beats industry energy-efficiency standards in lighting by more than 15 percent.

The University’s Sustainability Committee has yet to decide whether to recommend pursuing LEED certification for more future BU building projects, says Dennis Carlberg, who became BU’s first director of sustainability in January. He says the committee is reviewing the latest LEED standards, unveiled this spring. There are administrative costs in applying for certification beyond the price of actually building green, says Carlberg, an architect and former senior designer and project manager at the Somerville, Mass., architectural firm Arrowstreet. One alternative would be to build according to LEED specifications, such as BU did with the new Student Village II, using renewable materials, low-flow water fixtures, and other energy savers, without applying for formal certification.

“My personal feeling is that it makes sense to get certified,” Carlberg says. “That way you know you’ve achieved the sustainability goals you set out to achieve.”

Chris Berdik can be reached at cberdik@bu.edu.

Correction: Due to inaccurate information from sources, this story incorrectly states that the Makechnie Study Center is the first LEED certified project at Boston University. It is the first LEED project on the Charles River Campus. In January 2008, 670 Albany Street on the BU Medical Campus was LEED certified. We regret the error.


10 Comments on More Sustainable Square Feet

  • Natalie Counts on 06.01.2009 at 9:12 am

    This is awesome! Hopefully BU will expand the green initiative to other areas of the campus as well. It makes me proud!

  • Patrick Michaelyan on 06.01.2009 at 9:33 am

    Making the right moves.

    It’s beautiful to see what the University is doing to legitimately “green up” its eco-friendly credentials.

    I believe, as do many others on campus (both students and faculty), that it is now time to open the discussion up and begin establishing a student- and faculty-based program for making real and lasting changes on the campus. Changes beyond a LEED certified space here or there, and towards sustainable waste management, energy efficiency as an afterthought, and local sourcing of products and foods.

    Taking stock of our neighbors across the River at MIT presents the roadmap forward, along with the often- unheard voices of students and faculty who clamor for doing the right things with an economic component to boot.

    Good job BU…let’s use the momentum and our valuable human resource base to propel our University to leadership status.

  • Bill MacLeod on 06.01.2009 at 9:55 am

    Second BU LEED project?

    670 Albany Street, a Biosquare building (a project between BU School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, and Boston University), was LEED certified in January 2008. Doesn’t this make 670 Albany the first certified green construction project at Boston University or does Boston University only include the Charles River Campus?

  • Anonymous on 06.01.2009 at 3:14 pm

    Lisa Tornatore rocks!!!!!!!!

  • Eric on 06.01.2009 at 5:57 pm

    Going green, saving green

    I think it’s great that BU is going green. I wonder how steep the administrative costs are for certification? If the amounts are too high, maybe that money would be better spent furthering other green projects, rather than spending those resources on the actual certification process? Either way, congrats on making significant steps in the right direction!

  • Anonymous on 06.02.2009 at 9:36 am

    Makechnie's Tradition

    I think it is fantastic that this new Green construction project was named after Dean Makechnie. Especially after so much of his career was as the director of and promoter of BU’s original Green initiative, Sargent Camp.

  • Anonymous on 06.05.2009 at 12:56 pm

    Please Go LEED

    I’d like to urge President Brown and the BU administration in general to please pursue LEED certification across the board. As Mr. Carlberg says in the article, achieving LEED certification would ensure we’ve reached the latest sustainability standards.

    There should be a compromise (without forsaking financial responsibility) between living up to our commitment to sustainability and allocating funds responsibly but I hope BU continues its green efforts.

    If we build to LEED standards now and wait for certification later, won’t it cost more in the long-run if the standards change even slightly? And I second the above reader’s comment on initiating a conversation about this at the community level.

  • Raphael Trujillo on 06.23.2009 at 1:24 pm

    LEED Certification

    LEED certification is based on 100 points. Basic LEED certification can be achieved for a mere 40 points. To receive a Silver certification means they scored 50-59 points, which is impressive. Points can be attained for sustainable building sites, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials, and indoor environmental quality. There’s also points possible for innovation in design. LEED certification process is continually changing as laws are passed, so it’s important to stay up to date. You can learn more about LEED certification process at Everblue Training Institute

  • green your business on 10.30.2009 at 2:41 am

    I think it’s great that BU is going green.I think it is fantastic that this new Green construction project was named after Dean Makechnie.

  • Anonymous on 03.25.2011 at 4:24 pm

    Not more expensive: An healthy investment and economic savings

    LEED Certification is not costly and while the process does require extra some extra coordinating efforts from trade managers, the savings for LEED projects is clear and quickly repaid. Energy costs in buildings (via lighting, HVAC, improved instillation, water conservation, etc.) drop dramatically when thought and time is put into designing a better, healthier building. LEED also takes into account the health of building occupants – its better for the environment, the people using the space, and for the university in economic terms. It does require some efforts and coordination, however, which meets with reluctance from some parties involved. Continued support of the faculty and staff at BU (and exhibiting that support through the right channels) are what will push Sustainability efforts most.

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