Earlier this year, USGBC announced its annual Top 10 States for LEED, with Virginia ranked eighth. Two key players contributing to the growth of LEED-certified spaces in the state include the City of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia (UVA). Having identified climate change as an issue of concern in the region, the university and city leadership have formed a strong partnership to advance sustainability through education and collective action.
Both parties have committed to using LEED in new construction and major renovations. Here are some examples of how green building leadership in Charlottesville addresses environmental concerns and raises public awareness:
ecoREMOD: The deep energy retrofit of a historical residence
The ecoREMOD residential project is an effort designed and delivered jointly by the City of Charlottesville and UVA, demonstrating that energy efficiency and sustainability are not limited to new construction projects. The home was built in 1922, neglected by 1960, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
In 2007, the city purchased the home, seeing an opportunity to perform a deep energy retrofit with support from the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP), a community-based initiative that facilitates energy efficiency and renewables for local homeowners. Since the retrofit was completed in 2009, the home has served as LEAP’s headquarters. It offers space for both administrative needs and for workshops on energy efficiency.
A few highlights of this LEED Platinum project include an upgraded heating and cooling system with a higher efficiency heat pump, a cistern under the front porch to collect rainwater for irrigation, and a solar thermal system for hot water. ecoREMOD aligns with the city’s vision of making Charlottesville a leader in innovation and environmental sustainability, while also preserving the cultural and creative character of historic places.
To ensure ongoing sustainable performance of the building, a team of UVA engineering, architecture and architectural history students designed a monitoring system to track energy, temperature and other environmental conditions for the home.
The CAT Operations Center: An environmentally responsible industrial site
The LEED Gold Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) Operations Center opened in 2010 and includes a 27,000-square-foot campus with an administrative building and facilities for vehicle maintenance, servicing and washing. This industrial site proves that LEED works for all building types. The city and architectural firm VMDO prioritized sustainability in construction, ensuring the facilities would offer comfortable and healthy spaces for transit staff.
The administrative office is surrounded by a cooling, drought-resistant landscape. Inside, there is a flower-filled courtyard and a natural ventilation system, and 99% of regularly occupied spaces have access to natural lighting. To address stormwater runoff concerns for the maintenance facilities, the CAT complex hosts an 180,000-gallon underground storage tank for infiltration and treatment, and a 48,000-gallon underground cistern to collect rainwater for bus washing.
Clark Hall: An energy conservation leader by example
Students, university staff and faculty members interact in Clark Hall, home to UVA’s Department of Environmental Sciences. This academic building is a a clear leader by example when it comes to energy conservation. The renovation on this 182,000-square-foot space was the result of an effort by the Office for Sustainability’s Delta Force Program at the university to coordinate a team of facilities staff, engineers, plumbers and technicians.
Clark Hall at the University of Virginia.
This team analyzed the building’s energy use and came up with solutions to reduce both energy and utility costs. The resulting operations strategy earned the building LEED Silver certification under LEED for Operations and Maintenance, and has resulted in a 67% reduction in energy costs—translating to $750,000 in annual savings. Some notable upgrades include repairs to energy recovery systems, installation of new recycling and waste stations, and advanced controls for the HVAC system.
Regional climate planning and efforts
To learn more about the City of Charlottesville’s green building efforts, check out the CityGreenMap, an interactive map that includes sustainable buildings, natural resources and agriculture sites. To learn more about the University of Virginia’s sustainability initiatives, check out their annual report from the 2017–2018 school year.
At a regional level, the city, UVA, and the surrounding Albemarle County would like to hear directly from constituents to inform their efforts. Through the fall of 2019, all three entities will make new commitments to sustainability as part of their climate action plan. Check out their website to contribute and get involved.