College LEED’s by example

By Amanda Murphy

A recent certification may bring Columbia one step closer to being regarded as a sustainability sensitive institution. After many attempts to become as environmentally friendly as possible, the college has notched one of its largest accomplishments.

Columbia’s newest building, the Media Production Center, 1632 S. State St., was recently stamped with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certificate.

The MPC building is one of more than 200 LEED-certified buildings in Chicago and approximately 320 in Illinois.

“[The LEED certificate] is an external recognition that we have built a building among the highest standards of sustainability,” said Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment.

Berg said being green was part of the design process from the beginning. From the ceiling to the floor and walls, the college analyzed every aspect of the building process and tried to make it as eco-friendly as possible.

The college looked into using a multitude of windows for natural lighting, which lessens the use of artificial lighting. The design also included an efficient system for heating and cooling the sound stages, which is an intricate process because of the heavy use of lighting in film.

“It’s a very energy-efficient building, considering the function of the building as a film studio,” said Joe Leamanczyk, project manager of Campus Environment.

Columbia’s contribution of the MPC to Chicago’s LEED building scene adds to the city’s sustainability mission. Chicago has the highest number of LEED-certified buildings in the U.S., said Doug Widener, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Buildings [in the U.S.] use more than 40 percent of our carbon, utilize [more than] 70 percent of our electricity and generate a significant amount of waste and water,” Widener said. “If we’re going to get a handle on making a greener, more sustainable future for our country, it’s about making buildings operate more efficiently.”

When it came time for Columbia to finish and furnish the MPC, the college considered every atom and fiber.

Berg said the college used low-toxicity paint and installed carpet and furniture made with sustainable materials that support the building’s mission. According to Leamanczyk, the materials used are healthier for the building’s occupants.

“Lighting is on a sensor, so when natural lighting is coming into the lobby, the lights will go off,” Berg said. “The large studio spaces have radiant cooling in the floors, as well.”

The heating system of the MPC focuses on warming individual people through the ground so all the energy isn’t wasted on oxidizing the space around them, Berg said. Radiant heating and cooling systems are placed underneath hardwood and tile and have tubing that pushes water or gas, heating the space above the floor by radiation and convection.

The building also features a green roof, one of the more popular eco-friendly building additions. Green roofs feature plants, often indigenous to the area, planted on the top of buildings. They help control heating and cooling, lower costs and improve the air quality.

City officials, when learning of Columbia’s green focus with the project, contributed a green alley at the rear of the MPC.

“The alley was built with permeable pavement so the water seeps into the ground and doesn’t have to enter into the storm sewer system,” Berg said.

The college made most aspects of every campus building environmentally sound and uses the same types of furniture, paint and lighting as the MPC. Berg said the prevalent issue the college faces when making LEED-certified buildings is the expense of upgrading the heating and ventilation systems. However, Columbia is making these improvements when it fits into its budget.

“We should be showing our students, who are going out into the world, how you can integrate sustainability into different kinds of practices,” Berg said.