Sustainable floor earns college LEED certification

By LauraNalin

A recent renovation of the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building’s fifth floor has earned the college its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

LEED is a rating system awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. Buildings are recognized when they meet the standards set by the council to ensure that the construction process was done in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The college’s original goal was to meet the requirements for basic certification. However, when it teamed up with Gensler, an international architectural interiors company that works closely with Columbia, the school was granted a silver award, which exceeded its expectations.

Gensler has worked on various projects with the college throughout the years, including the Ferguson Lecture Hall, located in the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building, and the ninth floor of the South Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.

Although the company doesn’t always work on environmentally sustainable projects, Lindsey Feola, Gensler’s architectural designer for the project, said the majority of the assignments they have taken on in the past have been green projects.

Due to Gensler and Columbia’s ongoing relationship, the company was eager to work on the assignment. According to Feola, the project included a nearly full renovation of the entire 20,000 square-foot space, installation of a green roof, dual-flush toilets and use of recyclable materials. Gensler also encouraged those involved to ride bicycles or use public transportation by restricting of any parking spaces throughout the construction. “Most of the material on the project was able to be recycled, which is a huge deal,” Feola said.

“Construction waste is out of control—every single product that comes on site is wrapped in plastic and in cardboard boxes, and all of these things are really easy to recycle. You just have to have a project team that is really vigil about where the materials are going.”

One of the key reasons this area was selected was due to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.  The building uses energy recovery units which recapture energy that would otherwise be wasted. The system includes a recovery well that recycles heat to be distributed throughout the building.

John Kavouris, the assistant vice president of Facilities and Construction at Columbia, said the system was the final hurdle to qualify for the LEED certification. The college has been constrained in the past because of the inability to re-work the HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems, but also because of monetary issues. However, this building was different.

“In this particular building, we had the budget,” Kavouris said. “The HVAC system is  what really kicked us up over the top on this project.”

Not only did the project use recycled materials throughout the  construction,   Gensler also used an environmentally friendly paint with a low volatile  organic compound. Alongside the new HVAC systems, the paint helps to reduce the indoor air pollution. Dual-flush toilets, which conserve water by distinguishing between liquid and solid waste were also installed inside the restrooms to conserve water, which according to Joseph Lenacheck, project manager for Campus Environment, significantly boosted the chances of the certification.

Feola said she hopes that anyone interested in environment sustainability, particularly students, will take a look at the fifth floor.

“I know the college has a lot of interior architecture students and students in other fields who are learning about environmentally sustainable practices in design, and what’s really exciting is it could be a laboratory,”

Feola said. “It shows you can have a great and beautiful design and it can coincide with environmentally friendly design, and I hope students go take a look.”