A recent award underscores Eastern Kentucky University’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
The first LEED Gold-certified residence hall on a state university campus in the Commonwealth is located on EKU’s Richmond campus.
To earn the honor, the University’s newest residence hall, an 84,000-square-foot, suite-style facility on Kit Carson Drive, met stringent standards related to sustainability, energy and water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials and resources used in construction, and design innovations.
Recent state legislation requires all state-funded institutions to pursue LEED certification, but very few facilities obtain Gold status.
In LEED’s certification hierarchy, 40 points earns basic certification, 50 silver, 60 gold, and 80 platinum.
Eastern’s yet-to-be-named residence hall, which opened in 2013, tallied 61 points.
Because of its sustainability and cost-saving efficiency features, the facility represents “great value for the dollar,” said Carroll McGill, a project manager with the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet assigned to work with EKU on such projects, adding that the building was completed within its existing budget.
The facility’s 255 residents and other Eastern students may never see much of the infrastructure behind the LEED honor, but they appreciate the University’s commitment to environmental responsibility. “Most of our students are environmentally savvy, so they want to feel like they are a part of it,” said Kenna Middleton, director of University Housing. “It’s all a part of … responsible citizenship and building tomorrow’s leaders.”
Illona Beresford, project manager with RossTarrant Architects, Lexington, which designed the residence hall in partnership with Mackey Mitchell Architects from St. Louis, cited several features that contributed to the LEED Gold status:
· Expanded greenspace and reduced paved space (the hall was built on the site of a former parking lot)
· Use of native plants and trees, and preservation of healthy, existing mature trees
· Interior bicycle storage (enough to serve 5 percent of the residents)
· Heavy use of recycled construction materials
· Regional materials sourced for exterior building “envelope”
· Recycling rooms on each floor
· Low-flow plumbing fixtures
· Low-watt LED lighting with occupancy sensors in public areas
· Building Automation System that monitors operations and utility consumption
· Lightweight insulated concrete roof with white/cool roof membrane
· Several features that allow the building to be cooled or heated efficiently
· Natural light in virtually every space in the building, “which is very unusual”
· Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, coatings and floorings
· Ultraviolet lights shining on ventilation air to kill viruses and mold before they can get into the building
“RossTarrant found some low-hanging fruit for us, so we were able to get the biggest bang for our buck,” Middleton said.
The building’s “energy performance” is 28 percent better than a baseline residence hall, according to Beresford, who called a number of the cost-saving features “all very practical, very common-sense.”
“Everybody talks about energy usage,” said Randy Brookshire, principal with RossTarrant. “We live in a time when energy is becoming more valuable, less available. (Buildings like the new EKU hall) will benefit future generations.”
EKU’s newest residence hall “is in keeping with the University’s direction” in environmental stewardship and economic efficiency, Middleton said.
In 2008, Eastern contracted with Siemens Building Technologies for a $27 million Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC), the largest such contract in state history at the time, to promote long-term sustainability, reduce the University’s environmental footprint, and dramatically reduce utility costs. The contract allowed the University to address widespread deferred maintenance issues in campus facilities while leaving capital budgets intact. Campus-wide facilities upgrades included energy-efficient lighting, water-conserving technologies, and HVAC retrofits and efficiency improvements, including greater building automation.
The ESPC was funded without additional taxpayer dollars, as costs associated with the improvements were financed over 12 years using the contractually guaranteed energy savings, based on current utility consumption projections.
This past fiscal year alone (July 2012-June 2013), EKU realized approximately $3.2 million in utility cost and operational savings at baseline rates (the rates at the time the contract was signed). That figure jumps to $4.2 million at current rates. In either case, the University is running “ahead of the curve” relative to the guaranteed savings. In fact, despite the additions of the New Science Building, the EKU Center for the Arts and the new residence hall, overall utility costs have changed little at Eastern the last three years.
“Everybody looks to universities to be leaders,” Beresford said.
And EKU, which, according to McGill, “has always strived to meet or exceed any level set by the state,” has assumed that role. “This is one component of a university with a commitment, even before there was a mandate. Our office is real proud to work with Eastern because they have taken the lead.”