Lewisburg — Shortly after Bucknell University’s Academic West opened in 2013, the classroom and office building received LEED Silver Certification for sustainable design from the U.S. Green Building Council.
This certification meant that the building was designed to meet stringent global standards for sustainability – but designing for sustainability and actually practicing sustainability are very different things.
In May, Academic West earned LEED Platinum Certification for Operations and Maintenance, meaning that the facility isn’t just designed sustainably – it is also maintained sustainably. Platinum is the highest possible rating, and Academic West is the first academic building in Pennsylvania to receive this rating from Green Business Certification, Inc.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the most commonly used green rating system in the world.
Steve Durfee, campus energy manager, says the recognition not only establishes Bucknell as a leader in planning for sustainability, but also in continuing to seek out innovative solutions to make Bucknell’s campus even greener. The recertification effort will serve as a pilot for proving and improving the efficiency of other facilities on campus, including 10 that are LEED-certified as well an 11th, Academic East, seeking LEED Gold certification. The Management/Art & Art History Building that is under construction is also designed to meet LEED Gold standards, Durfee says.
“To earn this certification you have to prove that the building actually has a small environmental footprint, prove that it actually provides a good indoor environmental quality to the occupants — all based on data,” Durfee says. “Now that we’ve done that, we’re going to take what we learned and apply it to the next LEED-certified building on campus, and the next.”
The data that enabled the certification comes from a smart metering system designed into Academic West. Every five minutes, sensors upload information about the building’s energy use and the indoor environment — like temperature, water flow, and HVAC settings — to the internet, giving Bucknell Facilities staff a real-time look at Academic West’s energy performance and allowing the University to make decisions that further improve efficiency.
Planning ahead by installing those systems when the building was constructed played a significant role in helping Bucknell secure this new designation, Durfee says, as they capture data to quantify the environmental benefits achieved via the building’s many other green features, which include:
- Rain gardens that allow water runoff from the building to seep into the ground slowly, reducing flood risks
- Room occupancy sensors that turn off lights and adjust HVAC settings when no one is present
- Large windows and glass interior walls that allow natural light to permeate the building
- A research green roof that helps the building stay cool and serves as a laboratory for student and faculty research
Together with these measures that reduce the building’s carbon footprint (decarbonization), as well as efforts to improve sustainability every time new buildings are constructed or old ones are renovated (decentralization), the digital technologies built into Academic West put Bucknell at the forefront of the three largest trends in sustainable design, says Victor Udo, Bucknell’s director of campus sustainability.
“With Academic West, we’ve laid down a foundation that we are now building on, as we lead the charge toward decarbonization, decentralization, and digitalization,” Udo says.
Other efforts that Bucknell has made to make a greener campus include:
- A recently launched green cleaning initiative that replaces harsher chemicals and power-intensive cleaning equipment with more environmentally friendly alternatives
- A waste audit examining ways to improve recycling and composting on campus
- Surveys of occupants to ensure the building’s indoor environment meets their needs for work and study
- Education programs to help students, faculty, and staff make their work more sustainable
For Jeff Loss, interim associate vice president for facilities, the last item on the list may be the most important because a more sustainable campus and planet all begins with education.
“These ratings help drive a culture of sustainability on campus, and it all starts with the occupants who work and learn in our sustainable buildings,” Loss says. “They understand that what they are doing on a day-to-day basis has a real capacity to help Bucknell use less energy, use less water and advance toward a more green future. Source northcentralpa.com