LU LEEDing by example

Peter Bennett

Lawrence is about to begin building Appleton’s first LEED-certified building. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a checklist of actions taken in any building project that reflect a higher level of sustainability.
From the type of material used to the operating energy use, LEED helps construction and renovation happen environmentally with a “whole-building” approach. The checklist differs for different types of projects – new construction, renovation, homes, neighborhoods and schools, for example.
By fulfilling a certain number of items, a building can earn a rating of LEED certified. Additional items can improve this rating to Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Professor Marcia Bjornerud led an environmental science seminar last year to study applications of LEED on the Lawrence campus. The class found that renovations to Wilson House could save a substantial amount on the current $9,000 of annual heating bills. In fact, the initial costs of these changes would be recouped in only one year.
“The LEED certification process for renovated buildings is where Lawrence could benefit the most,” said Bjornerud. Improvements in heat efficiency, water use and roof runoff, for example, could benefit the campus environmentally and economically.
Associate Professor of Mathematics Joe Gregg has implemented green building technologies in his home. After purchasing a home in 1997 that had not been renovated for 50 years, Gregg replaced the attic insulation, furnace and windows, and installed solar panels on the roof. These efforts, combined with energy conservation, have helped Gregg achieve an energy bill that is half the national average.
“Energy costs will drive adoption of these measures,” said Gregg.
Bjornerud cites Oberlin environmental studies professor David Orr for his ideas about the responsibility of a college campus. Schools should attempt to practice what they preach when it come to environmentalism and make their campus a green campus. Small changes, like changing light bulbs and efficient heating, can make a large difference.
Although Bjornerud applauds the lifecycle approach to a building taken by LEED, Gregg has some suggestions for improvement. “A building could receive a score in several categories, that way sustainability is achieved through many techniques. Currently a building could be LEED certified and be extremely inefficient in some aspects.”
The U.S. Green Building Council, the stewards of LEED, has made the development of the system a continual process. Future changes may help reflect a more accurate picture of sustainability. Regardless, as energy costs rise, building green will become increasingly beneficial.