More Sustainable Square Feet
University completes first certified green construction project
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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