Green building without the 'green premium' | U.S. Green Building Council
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Posted in LEED
Published on
Written by
Posted in LEED

When Saint Martin’s University set out to construct a new building to house its engineering program, one thing was clear: this was an opportunity to make a bold statement about the timeless relevance of the University’s long-held values to our 21st century world.

A 118-year-old Benedictine university located in Lacey, Washington, Saint Martin’s University embraces “stewardship” as one of its core values. As the plan for the new engineering building developed, the project took on a mission-driven imperative: to demonstrate, through sustainable practices, the University’s commitment to stewardship — both of the environment and of the funds being raised for the building. Early in the design process, the university established the ambitious goal to achieve the highest level of LEED certification, and to do so with reasonable financial impact.

This year, Saint Martin’s University's goal became a reality. In January 2013, Fr. Richard Cebula, O.S.B. Hall opened to students. On Earth Day, Cebula Hall was formally dedicated. Then, on Oct. 14, the University made an exciting announcement: not only had Cebula Hall achieved LEED Platinum, it had earned 97 points — making it the highest-rated LEED structure in the Western Hemisphere, and the third-highest-rated in the world. All that, with a construction cost of $225 per square foot.

At 26,900 square feet, the compact three-story Cebula Hall was designed to accommodate the cost burden of laboratories, vertical circulation and a rooftop lab. Achieving high performance at such a modest cost was significant, given the lack of economy of scale, and proved that “building green” does not need to cost 15+ percent more than similar non-sustainable buildings. In fact, Cebula Hall cost less than most newly constructed non-sustainably-oriented laboratory buildings on college campuses, according to Marc Gleason of McGranahan Architects, the firm that designed the landmark structure.

Several energy consumption, production and campus life elements supported the University’s sustainability goals, including:

  • Life-cycle costs: The ground-source HVAC system has a five-year payback and made sense from a first and life-cycle cost position. The only long-term return on investment was the solar panel installation, which has an approximate 25-year payback.
  • Footprint: The small building replaced existing tennis courts, reducing the site’s overall impervious surface.
  • Student learning spaces: A rain garden at the front of the building allows easy access for civil engineering classes to study the merits and means of achieving storm water quality.
  • Integration with campus: The building was positioned to create a new campus quadrangle, providing a place for students to gather and optimizing solar orientation. The quad was developed along with the project and provides the heat sink for the horizontally oriented ground loop array that supplies the building’s HVAC system.

Progress in sustainable engineering and design will be influenced as much by the ingenuity of people and the inspiration of spaces provided to them for study and research as it will through new methods or technologies. With this new building, Saint Martin’s University has set an example of sustainable development while providing a low-cost, high-performing environment that supports the education of budding engineers. Inspired by Cebula Hall, these students will carry into their careers a unique kind of “green-minded” stewardship.

“Cebula Hall is living proof that the implementation of green building techniques can be very economical,” says Joseph Bettridge, P.E., vice president and director of engineering at Sunset Air Inc., who was project executive during construction of the three-story structure. “It doesn’t take a lot of ‘green’ to be green — just smarter choices and the commitment to optimize the design for the maximum benefit at the lowest cost.”

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