15 Park Place

15 Park Place

Photographer: Octavio Jones

Schoonover Center for Communications

Schoonover Center for Communications

Photographer: Octavio Jones

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LEED certification sought on three OHIO construction projects

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

One year after committing to LEED certification, Ohio University's initial endeavors in green building design are underway.  

The university is seeking LEED certification on three buildings:  the former Sigma Chi Fraternity house at 15 Park Place, the Schoonover Center for Communication located at the intersection of East Union Street and College Street, and an addition to the Technical Studies building on the Chillicothe campus.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system that provides third-party verification that a building or community meets green standards.

According to Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis, it is also a means by which to achieve a key initiative of the university's strategic plan.

“We articulated sustainability as a priority in our university’s strategic plan, Vision Ohio, because we believe our university community has a great responsibility to promote discussion and find solutions to environmental issues as well as be good stewards of our planet,” McDavis said. “LEED certification is just one way that we can do that and put our commitment into action by infusing it in the bricks and mortar of our campuses.”

McDavis has been a key advocate for sustainability initiatives at OHIO since assuming the presidency in 2004. Under his leadership, the university has created an Office of Sustainability within Facilities, launched a campus-wide composting operation, and established a unique graduate certificate in sustainability. McDavis was also a charter signatory to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which requires presidents to take responsibility for energy consumption and move toward carbon neutrality.

According to Director of Sustainability Sonia Marcus, LEED certification is just one of many components – albeit an important one – that will help guide the university toward a more sustainable future.

“There’s no getting around the fact that the way we build affects the way we live and work at Ohio University, as well as the campus’ ecological footprint. They also represent tremendous sustainability learning and outreach opportunities because we are spending so much of our days inside them and interacting with them,” Marcus said.

LEED standards were created to improve performance across all areas of green building: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and use of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) website, the certification process provides a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions to business owners, operators and, increasingly, to higher education.

Over the past eight years, the number of registered and certified LEED projects in higher education has grown from 100 projects in 2000 to more than 2,500 projects in 2008.

The certification, according to McDavis, is the gold standard of sustainability in action, as it relates to building and construction.

“As we continue to lead in our efforts, we need to look for additional opportunities to minimize our impact on the environment, and LEED initiatives are another way to achieve our commitment,” he said.

Based on a 100-point system, LEED awards credits on a building's adherence to various green criteria. For example, the provision of bike racks earns one point toward certification. Optimized energy performance can earn up to 19 points.

On all three of its initial LEED construction projects, Ohio University is seeking a minimum of silver certification —the third-highest ranking available, requiring 50 to 59 points. According to McDavis, the university will aim to exceed silver certification when feasible, given the constraints of individual campus buildings.

“While we must push ourselves on the issues, we also must be realistic with our goals. Ohio University is comprised of older buildings,” McDavis said. “We need to take each project on our campus master plan and look for ways that we can do more to become more sustainable and challenge ourselves to reach for opportunities to receive the highest level of LEED certification possible on each of our buildings.”

Various factors are taken into account when considering green building alternatives, including feasibility, desirability, opportunity for innovation, educational value, and both up-front and on-going costs, according to Marcus.

Based on the university's findings and research with the provided list, project managers and architects determine which features will be pursued, explained Lynnette Clouse, LEED accredited project manager in the Office of Design and Construction.

LEED certification will be sought on all major renovations and new construction at OHIO, according to Clouse. And while some of the smaller renovations may not rise to the level of LEED certification, the university will still aim to adhere to LEED principals on these projects, demonstrating a continued commitment to sustainability, she added.  

“Ohio University's commitment to sustainability extends beyond just changing light bulbs,” McDavis said. “We have focused our efforts on providing leadership and outreach. When an institution is a leader, it must lead by example. Our university community is doing just that when we are talking about research, operations, campus behavior, programming, and curriculum. However, we know that we can do more.”

Part two of the four-part series will focus on the former Sigma Chi fraternity house that is being given new life with a LEED renovation. Look for it May 28!

Related Links

U.S. Green Building Council*

Additional Info

*Following this link takes you outside of Ohio University's website.