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UND building gets top certification for green design

Solar panels, geothermal heating and a good location helped UND's Gorecki Alumni Center get top rankings for environmentally friendly design recently, according to data from the UND Alumni Association and Foundation.

Green design

Solar panels, geothermal heating and a good location helped UND's Gorecki Alumni Center get top rankings for environmentally friendly design recently, according to data from the UND Alumni Association and Foundation.

It took a year of operation for the $12 million building to achieve what's known as LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which needed to see how much energy and water the building saved.

But other factors such as being near a bus stop and within walking distance of residences and businesses also made a difference.

"For some projects, the owners want to lower their energy bills and that's it, but in this case, they really wanted it," said Rebecca Molldrem, an architect at JLG Architects.

By "it" she meant the top level in the building council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

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It also means bragging rights as the greenest building in the state and the greenest alumni center in the country, according to the UND Foundation, which announced the achievement Wednesday.

Energy savings

Of 93 LEED points the alumni center could have earned, the building received 83, according to Molldrem.

Technically 110 points is possible but some factors are beyond the designers' control. For example, being in very densely-populated neighborhoods are favored but there are none in the region.

By far, the LEED category worth the most points was "energy and atmosphere" with 35 possible points. The alumni center got 24.

Compared to traditional buildings in its class, it uses 32 percent less energy, according to the foundation. That's a savings of $38,075, which is 8 percent more than architects estimated.

The foundation says the building is among the top 3 percent of the most energy-efficient buildings in the country.

Water usage in the alumni center was 28 percent less than comparable traditional buildings.

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Besides solar panels and geothermal heating, the alumni center also features doubled-pane glass and extra insulation to increase energy efficiency, according to Molldrem.

Even the floor plan made a difference, Molldrem said. "The building orientation was elongated in an east-west direction, so there's more south-facing façade," which improved the transfer of heat in the building, she said.

Asked for a comparison with the two buildings the alumni center used to occupy -- the Strinden Center and J. Lloyd Stone Alumni Center -- foundation spokesman Milo Smith said he didn't immediately have the information because the university paid the energy and water bills for those buildings.

Location

The other category that's worth a lot of points was "sustainable sites" with 26 possible points. The alumni center got 25 for having a building site that minimizes impact on the surrounding environment.

LEED recognizes buildings that reduce the density of urban sprawl, so the center received 5 points for choosing a "walkable" location near other businesses and campus amenities, rather than a more scenic site at the edge of town, said Molldrem.

"It's also near residential units that are more than family housing, so there are dorms and apartments nearby," she said.

With UND's bus system, the center was able to receive 6 points for being accessible to public transportation, she said. It was also awarded points for reserving parking for a certain percentage of low-emission vehicles and offering bike racks, she said.

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Office comfort

The "material and resources" category was worth 14 points, and the alumni center got 5. Thanks to its recycling of materials during the construction process, workers reduced waste by about 98 percent, keeping nearly 73 tons of material from landfills, the foundation said.

The "indoor environmental quality" category was worth 15 points, and the alumni center got 12. The foundation said the building is designed to bring in 25 percent more outside air compared to a traditional building and using 60 percent less energy to heat the air.

In some cases, the alumni center received recognition for efforts that gained a small number of points but were symbolically important to the foundation, Molldrem said. For instance, it received 1 point for making daylight views available to 97 percent of its regularly-occupied spaces, she said.

Call Johnson at (701) 787-6736, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1736 or send e-mail to jjohnson@gfherald.com .

UND's Gorecki Alumni Center
UND's Gorecki Alumni Center Photo by John Stennes, Herald staff photographer

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENT
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