SHE building shoots for green and gold standards

Kirstin Cook, Editor-In-Cheif

The new Wilkes science building is going to be silver and green. Silver meaning the certification level it is aimed to reach with an environment-friendly design, and green for the conscientious impact designers hoped to have on the planet.

Architects hope to ensure green standards through the design and construction of the science building by including many innovative, environment-friendly features. These features include everything from the restroom sinks to carpeting.

Wilkes President Joseph (Tim) Gilmour described the new science building as green in nature at the March 1 groundbreaking ceremony.

“We will really have a green building in character,” Gilmour said.

The building architects are aiming at reaching the second highest level, silver, in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, but Gilmour said he’d like to see the highest standard.

“We’re hoping for gold, but we will definitely be at least LEED silver,” Gilmour said.

One of the designers for the building, SaylorGregg architect Tom Breslin, said the architects met with the building committee to discuss the LEED checklist. The LEED certification is granted based on a system that awards points in categories, such as energy efficiency and construction waste management.

“We try to be as wise as we can selecting the strategies we can use that will get the most bang for your buck, both in terms of investing in future savings and just environmental impact of what credits you go for,” Breslin said.

Breslin said they hope to use sinks that are quick use and low flow, which will make the building much more water efficient compared to traditional buildings.

“The goal is to reduce water use by 30 percent over what a typical building would be,” Breslin said.

Kenneth Klemow, biology professor and associate director of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, said another feature that would reduce water usage would be no flush or low flush toilets, which he said would be hygienic as well as conservative.

“There are things that you can do that are still sanitary but reduce the amount of water coming through,” Klemow said.

Klemow was involved with the design of the building, as he and other faculty members provide ideas to the architects. He said the green considerations are as detailed as the carpeting and adhesive used in construction, which may release vapors and pollutants depending on the type.

But focusing on these details was always part of the plan, as Klemow said they’ve been planning on having the science building reach green standards since the first discussion. He said the building will allow Wilkes to “lead by example” in environmental design.

“We knew a long time ago that we wanted to make the building a green building, because we wanted the building to be like a showpiece,” Klemow said.

One of the green features of the building will be a living wall, an exterior wall covered in vines, which Klemow said would cut back on heating in the winter and save on cooling in the summer.

Large windows will be a feature to save energy on lighting by allowing maximum natural lighting inside the building. But, to balance out this light intake, Klemow said awnings must be included over the windows to avoid excessive heating in the summer.

“It’s a whole bunch of things that you have to balance off of each other,” Klemow said.

Another feature that will help maintain building temperature will be the green roof, which will partially be covered in plants. Klemow said this roof will also help with storm water issues, and will direct excess rainwater to a rain garden that students can help design and monitor.

Breslin said the roof would work as a sponge, as rooftop plants would absorb rainwater and prevent flooding issues from the traditional gutter system.

“You’re decreasing the additional load on the storm system and sewage treatment plants and everything down the line,” Breslin said.

Breslin said the biggest challenge of planning the building was offsetting the high-energy consumption of the science laboratories.

“A lab building in general is an enormous user of energy,” Breslin said.

Klemow explained that much of the energy is consumed by about 70 fume hoods needed in the labs to remove dangerous fumes from chemicals from the building.

“In some cases, each hood can use as much energy as a small house,” Klemow said.

To combat this, high efficiency lab machinery will be installed, which Breslin said would lead to 19 percent less energy usage.

Erin Emery, communication manager of the U.S. Green Building Council that coordinates the LEED Certification, said energy consumption is just one of the wide variety of categories the certification process considers.

Emery said the LEED system, which began 11 years ago, has seen an increase in demand. She said they currently have over a billion square feet of projects certified, and 25 percent of new construction projects in the U.S. are pursuing some level of LEED certification.

Emery said a commitment to sustainability is only one of the reasons LEED is important.

“There are so many different reasons,” Emery said. “It’s about a consciousness of the space you occupy in the environment and how you treat your environment and our planet.

She added that financial benefits are particularly pertinent with the economic state, which she said may be part of the increase in demand for certification.

“There are also really money savings associated with it,” Emery said. “There are big advantages to saving on energy, not only an conscientious impact to bettering our planet, but it’s also saving the bottom line.”

Emery said that attaining these savings through certification doesn’t necessary have to be more expensive.

“It doesn’t have to cost any more money to build to LEED standards than it does to build to regular standards that don’t consider any green measures, but people can save a lot of money,” Emery said.

Some of the LEED credits are based on location. Breslin said that points specific to building in Wilkes-Barre emphasize storm water and construction waste management, with the respective issues of the nearby Susquehanna River and lack of local landfills.

Breslin said he is confident the building will reach the goal of LEED silver, even though he said some parts of the requirements, such as proper disposal of waste materials, can not be estimated beforehand.

“Based on our current projections, we are well exceeding LEED silver, so we feel like we have a good buffer,” Breslin said. “If anything comes up during construction, we feel like we should be able to achieve LEED silver.”