LEED Sustainability Certification
At a time when the cost of energy from conventional sources is extremely high, and future availability and supply of energy from such sources is uncertain, energy efficiency and conservation is truly an imperative for individuals and organizations.
Texas A&M University recognizes the importance of conservation and sustainability for the well-being of the nation and the community. Fortunately, new buildings such as the ILSB can be engineered for optimal energy and resource efficiency.
The ILSB was originally designed to qualify for Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System®, and in fact qualified for the even higher Gold certification on completion of construction. The building received LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2010.
The LEED rating system is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED certification, which is awarded based on a point system, distinguishes building projects that have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability by meeting the highest performance standards. Members of the U.S. Green Building Council representing all segments of the building industry developed LEED and continue to contribute to its evolution.
Points toward LEED certification are awarded in the categories of sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design process.
Sustainable Features in the ILSB
Carpet - Low Volatile Organic Compounds
The carpet chosen for the entryways is designed specifically to capture the maximum amount of dirt particles and dust from shoes, so the building and its heating and air-conditioning system remain clean. The carpet, the paints and other coatings used in the building are all classified as “low-VOC” (volatile organic compounds) or “no-VOC.” The usual “new building smell” is made up of chemicals that can be harmful to the human body. From the glue that holds down the carpet, to the epoxy mixed in with the terrazzo—virtually all the building materials are considered low or no-VOC.
Ceiling Slope/Light Shelves
The angle of the ceilings, combined with the high windows and light shelves (horizontal panels just below the windows) works to maximize natural light in the laboratories and other spaces. Light from outside comes in through the windows, bounces off the light shelves, and reflects off the sloped ceiling areas so that it is evenly distributed in the rooms. This reduces glare, which is important when working on computers, and decreases some of the heat gain in the building.
The rain garden is located in a low lying area that retains rainwater. The water percolates down through gravel beneath the garden, being filtered and cleaned in the process. It is stored in a 30,000 gallon tank called a cistern. Rainwater from the roof and other parts of the building feed the cistern. The condensate from the building’s air conditioning units also drain into the cistern. During the summer season, when there is less rain, the air conditioning system works harder and is expected to produce enough water waste to fill the cistern. The water in the cistern feeds the conventional sprinkler system, which irrigates the site.
The ILSB is situated between a quarter- and a half-mile from four different bus routes. The facility also meets LEED requirements regarding community density with a nearby post office, restaurants, laundry facilities and residential housing—all within a half-mile of the building.
Frit Pattern/Glass Glazing
The frit (dot pattern) embedded in the glass of the huge panels that form a large part of the wall area in the ILSB consists of a laminated sheet between the glazing panels, which reduces the amount of heat entering the building. The glass glazing has a “low E” coating. This means it reflects more heat than it lets into the building.
The raised windows on the inside walls of the labs face the inner corridors, allowing daylight to pass through to the corridors. The windows are high enough to allow privacy, while still letting outside light into as much of the building as possible.
Fluorescent light fixtures in all areas are directed upward, so the light provided is diffused/indirect. They are also rated as T8—a more energy efficient rating than many fluorescent bulbs. The labs are equipped with a special dimming system that automatically adjusts to daylight conditions. As the outside light brightens, the fixtures dim automatically, but undetectably, saving energy.
Terrazzo Floor/Wood/Structural Materials
These materials were chosen for their local availability. The limestone and brick that form the entire main structure of the building are from Liberty Hill and Elgin, Texas, near Austin—only about 45 minutes away. Most building materials were extracted or manufactured within 500 miles of this location for efficient use of energy during the construction transportation process.
Xeriscaping and Indigenous Plants
The landscape architect worked closely with Texas A&M’s Physical Plant/maintenance staff to plant the appropriate vegetation at the ILSB site. In the rain garden and throughout the grounds, xeriscaping plants (low-maintenance and drought tolerant) were used to reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation. Indigenous plants such as crape myrtle and native grasses were used to take advantage of their natural requirements in the local climate. Native plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought resistant, low maintenance landscape while benefitting the environment.
Raised windows are installed all the way around the building. The sloped ceilings in the atriums and other common areas function the same way as they do in the labs—allowing daylight to come in up high and diffusing light throughout the open spaces, while still keeping the heat gain down.
On the south-facing windows, there are fins on the outside that shade the windows from direct sunlight while allowing plenty of diffused light to enter the building. The architect created energy models, including daylight modeling to determine sunlight angles striking the building during different times of the year. This information was used to determine the number of fins to install and in the correct angles.
Alternative Transportation Features
Another aspect of sustainability, according to LEED standards, is to make the use of alternative transportation convenient for the ILSB’s occupants. There are four showers in the building, each equipped with small lockers. The showers and lockers provide a convenient way for those who use bicycle transportation to shower and change clothes.
Windows That Open
Many offices in the building have smaller windows that can be opened, since part of sustainability, as defined by the LEED standards, involves having control over your work environment, choosing a preferred temperature as well as the amount of light. Every room has individual temperature controls, and the windows that open provide a connection to the outside air. The windows are small enough that they do not interfere with the overall temperature regulation of the building.
The silver countertops in the bathrooms are made from a product called “alchemy.” It is a solid surface that is composed of recycled aluminum shavings. Toilets are dual-flush, allowing users to flush with more water by moving the handles downward, or less water with an upward movement. All the lights in the building are motion-activated—when no one is in a given space in the building, the lights will go off (except for emergency lighting).
Low Flow Fixtures
All lab sinks are installed with low flow fixtures that save substantial amounts of water compared to conventional equipment. Low flow fixtures save water that would otherwise be wasted—reducing utility costs, and the amount of available fresh water used—without compromising utility.