Wednesday, September 29, 2010

DePaul LEEDs The Way

In a city like Chicago, with a bustling urban center and an endless grid of downtown neighborhoods, a focus on the sustainable best practices in the built environment is of the utmost importance to our quality of life. The built environment is a very broad term, and may be used to describe the smallest hot dog stand, or the entire city and its infrastructure. However you look at it, our man-made surroundings are all a part of the built environment, and affect our lives on a daily bases. Sustainable best practices have become an intense focus in the design, construction, and management of the built environment….the most visible and popular being green buildings.

Green buildings are popping up all over the world, with the objective of shifting best practices to higher performance, lower environmental impact, and regenerative design. Universities have become a hotspot for green buildings, and DePaul is no exception. University facilities are an integral part of Chicago’s built environment. They not only impact the immediate environment, but also foster learning that will affect our future environment, and set an example for other communities and universities. The new Andrew J. McGowan Science Building is on the cutting edge of the university’s efforts to integrate sustainable best practices into the built environment. Just this fall it earned a LEED Gold rating.

LEED Gold is the second highest rating in LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is the international standard rating system for green buildings, administered by the United States Green Building Council, or USGBC. The system is designed to improve performance over all aspects of the built environment. It includes categories that cover indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, sustainable site selection, design innovation, and materials and resources. DePaul was able to achieve Gold Certification by creatively incorporating elements from those categories into the design of the new science building. In an interview by DePaul Magazine, Vice President of Facility Operations Robert Janis said that a laboratory building will use 5-10 times more energy than an office building of comparable size. See the article New Science Building Garners a LEED Gold, Mayor's Praise.

This high amount of energy use makes the focus of sus
tainable best practices much more important. According to the article from DePaul Magazine, the university was able to incorporate sustainable elements such as :

• Thermal mass walls that improve insulation• High efficiency natural gas boilers and water heaters
• Efficient lighting

• Vegetated green roof
• High albedo roof surfaces to defer solar thermal gain
• Storm water management plan to eliminate runoff• Regional building materials with recycled content
• Building materials with low VOC’s, or Volatile Organic

The vegetated green roof includes all native plant species and an experimental greenhouse. It will become an outdoor lab that will further extend the educational opportunities available to the students at DePaul.

With the construction and operation of this new sustainable building on campus, DePaul is not only immediately contributing to the sustainability of our physical environment, it is providing an example for all Chicagoans, and providing educational opportunities for younger generations who will bear the task of continuing sustainability best practices.

Check out the video about the new McGowan Science Building

Photo Credit: DePaul Magazine

Kurt England, LEED AP

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