When Clarion University approved its last strategic plan in 2005, it included a commitment to build all new structures for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. Six years later, five new buildings have been erected, and all meet LEED standards.
LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system that provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most. Five categories of LEED are: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials and indoor air quality. The number of points the project earns determines the level of LEED certification the project receives.
Joseph P. Grunenwald Center for Science and Technology and Gregory Barnes Center for Biotechnology Business Development at Clarion University are certified at the LEED Gold level. Campus View and Valley View student residence suites and Eagle Commons dining facility are certified at the LEED Silver level.
"I think it shows a great leadership role for Clarion University in western Pennsylvania," said Valerie Beichner, LEED green associate and manager for Green Building Products, Policy and Business Outreach at Green Building Alliance, Pittsburgh, and a 2005 Clarion graduate with a degree in political science.
Paul Bylaska, vice president for finance and administration at Clarion University, said building to meet LEED standards is attractive in that it reduces energy costs, and the building cost is not significantly different from that of a traditional building.
"People appreciate that we are trying to be good stewards of taxpayer money," Bylaska said. "They like that we're trying not to damage the environment with what we do."
"We're talking about not just environmental impacts. LEED buildings can reduce energy costs up to 50 percent, solid waste by 70 percent and emissions by 39 percent," Beichner said. "It lends to health benefits and overall benefits in our communities."
According to the Energy Information Administration, buildings in the United States use more than 70 percent of the country's electricity, consume nearly 40 percent of its energy and emit close to 40 percent of all its greenhouse gases.
Compared to standard buildings, green buildings have been shown by the U.S. General Services Administration to lower maintenance costs by more than 10 percent, reduce energy use more than 25 percent, lower greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent and significantly increase occupant satisfaction.
The STC features a gas micro-turbine and solar panels on its roof, which provide electricity for the building. The design emphasizes more than 50 percent natural light through the use of large outside windows and glass walls on many of the seminar rooms. An automatically controlled heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, combined with electric eye light controls, drop or raise temperatures accordingly in unused rooms and turn off lights not in use. Other resource-saving features include a rainwater gathering system which reclaims the water for other uses in the building, a white roof to reflect heat and a heat recovery system to lower energy consumption.
The Barnes Center has light sensors in every room that brighten or dim each space to reach a predetermined candle level, and extinguish the light when no motion is detected in 20 minutes. Water outlets in the restrooms are controlled by motion, and toilets are low-flow models. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system recycles to capitalize on air that has already been heated or cooled. Showers were installed to encourage occupants to bike, run or walk to work.
Among the features of Campus View and Valley View suites is special carpeting at the entryways that traps dirt and particulates. Each floor has an area sized to accommodate recycling stations for paper, aluminum, glass, plastic and cardboard.
Eagle Commons boasts energy-conserving mechanical/electrical systems, energy-efficient cooking equipment, and water conservation measures projected to reduce usage a minimum of 30 percent.
All LEED-certified buildings have in common that finishing materials contain very low, if any, volatile organic compounds. Care was taken to disturb as little earth as possible in the building process, and to restore what was disturbed. Landscape vegetation consists of plants native to North America. Many of the building materials are made from recycled materials, many of which were harvested from within a 500-mile radius of Clarion.
Beichner said GBA is seeing great growth in the number of LEED-certified buildings at colleges and universities.
"Having LEED-certified buildings lends to the assets of communities overall. It means healthier places for people to work, for students to live and learn," she said.
Beichner is particularly happy to see Clarion University building with sustainability in mind.
"I think it is fantastic to have this type of growth. I graduated right when they were starting construction of the science and technology center," she said. "Now, to see completion of those buildings and see the LEED certification, is tremendous for the university overall and for the students who are there currently."
Clarion University is the high-achieving, nationally recognized, comprehensive university that delivers a personal and challenging academic experience.