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Former Sigma Chi fraternity given new life with LEED renovation

This is the second article in a four-part series on Ohio University's initial LEED building projects.

Formerly the Sigma Chi fraternity house, 15 Park Place is the first of three Ohio University buildings to undergo the LEED certification process.

The renovation will cost roughly $2.3 million, funded in part through a $2 million gift by Ohio University alumni Robert and Margaret Walter. The facility will be used for the new offices of Education Abroad, currently located on the first floor of Lindley Hall, and International Student and Faculty Services, currently located on the third floor of Baker University Center.

According to Project Manager Howard Fokes, renovating an old building such as 15 Park Place is no easy task. In some cases, he said, it can be more difficult than building a completely new structure.

"On this house there wasn’t a single system…that could be used. Everything is being replaced – from the plumbing, the HVAC system, which there really wasn’t one at all, and the electrical system was shot and would not meet current code. There were all sorts of issues,” Fokes said.

Renovations to 15 Park Place will accrue LEED points by drawing on the site's natural landscape.

The sloping hillside behind the house will be restored with native and adapted vegetation to promote biodiversity, and invasive exotic species will be removed. Storm water will flow into the pond below, allowing it to infiltrate the ground and reduce the risk of flooding, thereby alleviating pressure on the Athens municipal storm water sewage system.

The project also places a heavy emphasis on optimizing energy efficiency.

Planned features include energy-efficient lighting, insulated exterior walls, and water-efficient fixtures, such as sink aerators to conserve water in the restrooms and kitchenette, according to Lynnette Clouse, LEED accredited project manager in the Office of Design and Construction.

Once renovated, the old fraternity building will be tied into university-wide energy distribution systems, such as the central steam and chilled water loops.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use 39 percent of the energy and 74 percent of the electricity produced each year in the U.S. The benefits of curbing building energy consumption are two-fold – addressing both the environment and the bottom line, according to Fokes.

“The less energy a building uses, the better off we are because it’s less money that we are paying for all that energy. But overall, we are trying to go down a more sustainable path,” Fokes said.

The renovation will also strive to provide a more comfortable and healthy work environment for employees – earning points toward LEED's "indoor environmental quality" metric. This includes daylighting and controllability of systems, allowing occupants to adjust lighting and temperature to their own individual comfort level, said Clouse.

Fokes said he also plans to give priority to recycled building materials as well as materials from local sources throughout the building process.

Construction will begin on 15 Park Place within the next few weeks and is scheduled to be completed by January 2011. The project will be handled by RVC Architects, a local firm chosen from a pool of more than 40 candidates who responded to OHIO's request for qualifications (RFQ), according to Fokes.

Part three of the four-part series will focus on the new Schoonover Center for Communication building. Look for it June 3! For more information on the university’s commitment to LEED certification, click here.