Putting the LEED in Green

By MEGHAN MEIER

Going green is becoming more hip then ever. From the engineer to the single homeowner, contemporary ideas in technology and design are explored to encourage the development of eco-friendly buildings that can be applicable to every day living. More than ever, colleges and universities are following this trend as they make room for a greener future. For Kennesaw State University, the dream of building a more sustainable and more energy efficient campus has become a reality with the help of great ingenuity and partnering relations.

When creating an LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building, no matter the categorical design, the motive of construction is to minimize the carbon footprint as much as possible. Innovative in practice and design, LEED was conceived by the U.S. Green Building Council. The production of LEED is an innovative measure to create green certified buildings that create positive sustainable resources and produce lasting energy that is beneficial in cost management and in human health.

The idea of LEED buildings is to create energy sufficient technologies that utilize energy quality and environmental health. In order to meet these needs, KSU engineers follow the LEED Rating System, which provides guiding materials in the designing process. Built on a categorical point system (certified, silver, gold, platinum), engineers are evaluated on construction performance and the building’s overall system requirements and environmental standards.

“It is driven by the point system,” said R.C. Paul, KSU Director of Sustainability.  “You want it to be as local as possible because of transportation. It’s actually a huge thing how much emission is coming from the transportation. As much as possible, use recycled materials and recyclable materials. One of the things you get points for is using materials that is actually on the site that you actually build.”

LEEd Buildings Must Adhere to Strict Codes of the Green Building Council

Modeling a LEED building is not an ordinary task at KSU. Before any construction can take place, architects and structural engineers must first check the land for its sustainable quality. Looking for soil contents, waterlines and obvious sanitary concerns, site management must adhere to the strict codes the Green Building Council has enlisted. These enforcements promote the process of handling recyclable and the recycling of materials and low emissions production during the construction process.

“One thing obviously is site development,” said Paul Underwood, Campus Planner, KSU Design and Construction Services. “Making sure your building is at a good location, good use of materials, ample materials and earth friendly that are nontoxic.”

The constructed purpose of LEED is to produce low emitting carbon structures that are beneficial to human health and to the environment. This involves evaluating transportation routes and overall use of materials to produce a LEED certified building. To secure low emissions on material manufacturing and distribution, KSU contractors are to produce materials within a 500 mile radius of the construction site. However, materials such as wood can be most difficult to claim. Due to limited production and accessibility, Canada becomes a resource destination for contractors where production in furniture and wood construction are more prevalent. Although most materials are manufactured in Georgia, other exterior and interior materials are brought from surrounding states such as Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama.

When designing a building that is to be LEED certified, procuring quality efficient technologies are most important to KSU engineers. Technologies selected must work cohesively in both the exterior and interior dimensions of the building. Optimizing energy conservation and health safety require innovative strategies that produce recycling and insulation methods that will maximize sanitary conditions and energy consumption. Energy preservatives such as white roofing and insulated windowing help regulate the flow of heat on the exterior and interior of the building. LEED buildings are specially designed to provide open space and the use of insulated windows. Providing spatial views of the outside environment, the building is able to use natural lighting throughout its interior.

Doing so not only conserves energy cost, but also promotes a healthier environment for both students and faculty.

“You certainly don’t want to create a building that is going to wreak havoc on the population,” said Underwood. “But at the same time, I think that it’s the most important part, just making sure the building does not cause sickness.”

Providing high-quality air requires technologies that are long lasting and energy efficient in cost. Prevalent in buildings such as the Social Science Building, KSU Health Sciences Building, the Commons, and the new Science Lab, the enthalpy or heat wheel was constructed to balance air circulation coming in and out of the building. With a rotating fin, outside air is brought into the filtrating system and is conditioned to a set temperature. As doors continue to open throughout the building, the heat wheel actively modifies incoming air to keep the interior of the buildings at a consistent temperature.

KSU: Pioneer for Campus Green Living

Over the years, Kennesaw State University has advanced with staggering student population growth. With the exponential growth, the university is provided ample opportunity to expand its structural design and environmental preservation. Developing buildings that are silver and gold in LEED certification, KSU is a pioneer for campus green living.

Opening its doors in 2010, the KSU Health Sciences Building is the quintessential paradigm of LEED certification at KSU. Granted gold in LEED certification, this 200,000 square feet facility is the symbolic reflection of sustainable energy and innovative technologies that enhance the academic environment.

Four years in the making, a collaborative group of engineers, faculty, and students participated in the conceptual process and design. Traveling to universities across the North American continent, KSU faculty had the advantage to visit various health departments to research and conceptualize what green materials would best suit a new KSU health department.

“I developed a list of questions to ask and a list of things to do,” said David Bennett, Ph.D, RN, associate dean of the WellStar College of Health and Human Services at KSU. “They took pictures and brought it back and we pulled it to a report and gave it to the architects. Then they pulled representatives from each groups from all departments, administrations, and staff and interviewed them about what they want for the building and what are their priorities.”

Acoustic sound and overall environmental design in the classrooms was one of the top priorities for the KSU Health Sciences Building. To enhance the sound quality between teacher and student, acoustic specialists were brought in to modify all classrooms according to each dimension. Outlining the walls of each room, modified absorbing panels were placed along the interior walls to better collect the sound that is being produced.

To protect ongoing lectures, engineers developed a side entrance, which allows latecomers to enter the classroom without interrupting the teacher’s lecture. Most of these entrances are seen in classrooms with a student body size of 90 and above.

“You can walk in these side doors and it blocks from the vision from the class and you can go all away around the room and across the back of the room,” said Bennett. “You are able to get anywhere in the room without crossing the faculty.”

Protecting the interior of outside pathogens, engineers installed double pane windows throughout the building’s entire structure. Without any access to openings other than the designated exits, ventilation and overall air quality were the biggest concerns in the design of the KSU Health Sciences Building.

With 15 interdisciplinary laboratories and 13,000 square feet of nursing-lab space, fluid motion of air was pertinent to engineers to help regulate the dissemination of odor and stale air. Pulling air from the outside, ventilation systems push the air through the building to the laboratories. Installed in all laboratories, high-equipped ventilation collects air particles that consist of fumes and other circulated pathogens out of the building through the protected ducts. Applying this technique to all four levels of the building provides an odorless environment that is shared by students and teachers alike.

Although research provided applicable resources for quality air and sustainable energy, natural light became the engineers’ greatest asset to illuminate the building’s halls and classrooms. Designing the structural skeleton to construct peripheral views of the campus, architects were able to incorporate large double pane windows through the building’s entire structure.

That technique allows natural light to flow though each level of the building, eliminating the use of electricity during the day. Indoors, this open concept provides a serene atmosphere in which students are able to relax and study without any interruptions.

“The intent was to bring light in from the outside into the hallways, into the inner offices,” said Bennett. “So people had that light that queued in their daily body clocks. Sometimes you can be in a dark, closed room and you don’t know what time it is and you don’t get stimulated. I think that helps you in terms of productivity and the way people feel.”

LEED buildings have become a motivational tool to help support green living. Endorsing its methods and purpose, KSU is able to reinvent how it wishes to live and work academically in a much greener fashion.

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