Top Ten LEED Projects

Sept. 26, 2006
By Katie Sosnowchik
The idea of designing more sustainable facilities has gained significant momentum, reaching across numerous industries.

Since its launch in 2000, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System®, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), has survived many growing pains, and now enjoys prominence as the leading standard for high-performance sustainable buildings. LEED's success is most evident in the numbers: nearly 600 million square feet of building space has been registered or certified under LEED, impacting the design and development of nearly 5,000 buildings and interior spaces. There are LEED projects in all 50 states and in 12 countries. Additionally, more than 25,000 design practitioners have passed the LEED Accreditation exam.

LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based system created, says the USGBC, to: define "green building" by establishing a common standard of measurement; promote integrated, whole-building design practices; recognize environmental leadership in the building industry; stimulate green competition; raise consumer awareness of green building benefits; and transform the building marketplace.

LEED evaluates buildings in five areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources and indoor environmental quality. Within these credit areas, points are available; the number of points a project earns determines the level of certification it will be awarded: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.

Six LEED Rating Systems are available or under development: LEED for New Construction (NC); LEED for Commercial Interiors (CI); LEED for Existing Buildings (EB); LEED for Core and Shell (CS); LEED for Homes (H); and LEED for Neighborhood Development (ND). The USGBC is also developing specialized products for retail spaces, labs, campuses, and other multiple building projects, schools, lodging and healthcare facilities, to focus on the specific needs of different building types.

The following pages showcase 10 recent LEED projects—many the first of their kind to be certified— that demonstrate the ability and versatility of the rating system to forever alter the landscape of the built environment ... creating truly great places to live, work, learn, travel, heal and play.

A 50-year-old manufacturing plant was given new life as the state-of-the-art corporate headquarters for one of St. Louis' oldest and largest construction companies. The client, Alberici Corp., worked with Mackey Mitchell Associates to transform a brownfield site into a shining example of green design.

In fact, the project has been awarded a LEED Platinum rating, earning 60 points—the most of any LEED project in the world to date. Mackey Mitchell team members say collaboration among the owner/builder, architects, engineers and LEED consultants was critical to the project's success.

Some of the building's notable green features include:

  • the planting of indigenous vegetation, including six acres of Missouri prairie grass and wetland plants
  • solar water heaters as well as water-cooled mechanical cooling equipment
  • a wind turbine system to generate electricity
  • occupant-controlled thermal comfort and lighting
  • occupant access to operable windows
  • illumination sensors to maximize lighting efficiency and effectiveness
  • skylights and clerestories to optimize daylighting strategies
  • window placement to optimize cross-ventilation
  • very low or no-VOC adhesives, paints, sealants and carpets
  • nearly 93 percent (6,000 tons) of all construction and demolition waste, by weight, diverted from landfills

The interior is organized around three large atria that visually unite the building's two floors while distributing abundant light, fresh air and views to the outdoors. The atria also act as thermal flues to induce ventilation. Mackey Mitchell designed the open floor plan to embody the concept of "long life, loose fit." Spaces are easily reconfigured due, in part, to minimal use of fixed walls and a raised floor system that accommodates air distribution as well as power and wire distribution.

Twenty percent of materials, by cost, were manufactured within 500 miles of the project. Recycled-content materials include synthetic gypsum, steel framing and rebar, concrete block (including flyash), carpet backing, and translucent panels. Rapidly renewable resources include bamboo plyboard, cork flooring, particleboard made from wheat, and an Energy Star roof made of a natural soybean-oil polymer. More than 50 percent of the wood specified was FSC-certified, and more than 10 percent of materials were salvaged or refurbished. The wind turbine, for example, was bought used from a California wind farm.

The Alberici project was honored as one of AIA's Top 10 Green Projects for 2006.

The design of the new Animal Foundation Dog Adoption Park illustrates how good green design is great for all living things. The first project in the development of a regional animal campus, the Adoption Park offers a healthy, pleasant, and comfortable environment that is important to the mood and health of the animals and to visitor attitudes about adoption.

The 18,700-square-foot park, designed by Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects, serves the animal sheltering and adoption needs for Las Vegas and surrounding areas. It consists of "bungalows," each containing 12 kennels, outdoor runs and a visitation room. Bungalows are arranged in a park-like setting, shaded by freestanding canopies supporting photovoltaic panels.

Because the costs of maintaining such an environment are high, designers focused on minimizing facility costs without reducing the quality of the adoption experience. Given Southern Nevada's climate, the team decided to focus on reducing the cooling load and reducing water use, which led to unexpected synergies between the health needs of the dogs and reductions in energy and water use. Canines thrive in natural daylight and fresh air; consequently, the bungalow's form and orientation are governed by daylighting and wind-powered ventilation. The latter significantly reduces building cooling loads while providing 100 percent fresh air. The greatest use of water in caring for canines is for waste removal; consequently, the team incorporated a plant that treats all wastewater for reuse on site.

Additional green elements include: materials with high recycled content or greater renewability; FSC-certified woods; energy-efficient lighting; sensor-controlled louvers; ferrous metals and aluminum cladding materials; and materials and systems with low maintenance requirements. Additionally, the abandoned remains of a water treatment plant were processed and reused as the project's structural fill.

When the design of the park began, Las Vegas city building code did not allow design methods and material uses the team considered essential to green building. Thus, it became an opportunity for the design team to partner with building officials to develop codes and acceptable construction methods to enable LEED certification for other green projects. This dynamic process continued throughout design and construction and resulted in city building codes that provide a cogent framework for the review and approval of green buildings. 

The ability of designers to positively impact the built and natural environment is one of the landmark lessons associated with the Boulder Associates offices. The 22-year-old national healthcare architecture firm garnered a LEED-CI Gold rating for its new environmentally- and employee-friendly offices, located in a historic building on Boulder's Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall. "

Sustainable design has become part of Boulder Associates' culture, and we want to educate and inform our clients about it," says Kristi Ennis, AIA, the firm's sustainable design director. In fact, the offices serve as an innovative laboratory, using and testing sustainable design concepts and materials that can be especially beneficial for its healthcare clients.

Boulder Associates faced a special challenge in that its green strategies also had to be respectful of the building's historic significance. The designers were able to create a unique aesthetic that highlights the beauty of both new and existing materials. Materials were reused wherever possible, including the original tin ceiling, a 100-year-old brick demising wall, lumber, insulation, ceiling tiles and grid. Existing materials not needed were salvaged for use by others. Boulder Associates also sought out materials salvaged from other structures. Wood reclaimed from brine pickle barrels was retooled to become a wood-slat ceiling, and historic brick of the same vintage as the structure was located to patch the existing demising wall.

The firm also sought out products produced from rapidly renewable materials, those that remain biodegradable in their manufactured state and those containing recycled content. As a result, nearly 10 percent of construction materials and products are made from raw materials that can be harvested in one growing season, while nearly 39 percent of materials and furniture are either post-consumer or post-industrial recycled waste.

Transom glass on enclosed offices diffuses daylight and views into adjacent interior studio spaces. The main conference area, fondly called the Biscuit Oven, accommodates large or small teams through the use of overhead garage-style doors and mobile furnishings for maximum flexibility.

Ample windows, new roof monitors, individual utility meters, an exterior recycling collection area, and shower rooms for bicycle commuters, all played an important part in the project's success. The firm was able to effectively utilize the available daylight through the use of reflective surfaces and light shelves, while PVC-free foil-backed shades minimize unwanted heat gain. Water consumption was reduced by 43 percent through the installation of dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals and low-flow showerheads. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the office contracted with Renewable Choice Energy to provide 100 percent of its electrical power from renewable wind energy.

The end result is a healthy and inspiring office space that brings sustainable concepts to life for clients, consultants and staff.

The new Bronx Library Center has been described, appropriately, as "an open book," inviting passersby to peek through its glass curtain wall façade and glimpse at a library environment unlike any they may have experienced before. Tucked in the midst of a busy commercial neighborhood, the new library serves as both a hip community center and a welcoming home for books.

Designed by Dattner Architects, the $53 million Bronx Library Center received a LEED Silver rating, the first branch of the New York Public Library—and the first public building in New York City—to be LEED certified. At 78,000 square feet, it's triple the size of the old Fordham Library Center that it replaces.

The new center provides expanded circulating and reference collections, cutting-edge information technology, and a full range of education, business, and technology training for all ages, including literacy and English language proficiency programs. The library houses a unique Latino and Puerto Rican Cultural Center, with extensive bilingual collections, educational and cultural programs, and multi-media exhibits.

Key concepts of the design include minimal internal circulation, clear lines of sight, efficient stack layout and an adaptable open plan. Its distinctive green features include:

  • the innovative glass curtain-wall façade, which allows maximum natural light for reading areas while controlling energy loss and limiting glare
  • interior light shelves that bounce daylight deep into the interior of the collection spaces
  • 90 percent of public spaces with direct views to the outdoors
  • sensors that adjust light levels along the curtain wall and in adjacent stack areas
  • Energy Star roofing and roof coatings that prevent solar heat absorption to reduce cooling needs
  • about 20 percent of the total materials used in building the structure were recycled, including 15 percent of the building's terrazzo flooring and 45 percent of its linoleum flooring
  • 80 percent of wood-based materials, including information desks, were grown in forests managed under guidelines for environmental responsibility
  • approximately 55 percent of materials were manufactured within 500 miles of the site
  • all air-handling units feature high-efficiency filters and air-side economizers so that outdoor air can be used when it is cool outside
  • 90 percent of the debris from demolition was recycled

Notably, the Bronx Library Center was honored with a Green Building Award from the New York City Environmental Protection Agency.

The latest in both security and sustainable design distinguishes the new Department of Homeland Security Building in Omaha, NE, setting new standards for federal buildings. The one-story facility, which features a striking glass façade, an inviting landscaped courtyard, and an impressive foyer, houses the operations of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Early in the design process, Gensler set the goal of attaining a LEED Gold level rating for the 86,500-square-foot building—an objective that served to inform many of the progressive green strategies utilized. For example, the building is 66 percent more energy-efficient than an average office building of comparable size, due in large part because of daylighting techniques, including light shelves and skylights. The building is also wrapped around a central open-air courtyard, which provides a private and secure outdoor break area for employees while ushering daylight into the building's interior.

Some of the building's other sustainable elements include:

  • geothermal heating and cooling
  • local, recycled, or low-VOC interior furniture, materials and finishes
  • bike storage and locker rooms to encourage alternative transportation methods
  • rainwater harnessing devices for irrigation and plumbing use
  • aggressive construction waste management
  • 50 percent of its power gained from renewable energy sources

The building was designed according to the GSA's First Impressions Program, an initiative to enhance the public's perception of the federal government by improving public spaces in its buildings. As visitors approach Omaha's grand and welcoming facility, a two-story glass box offset by a brick surround clearly indicates the public entry without overt signage. Thin vertical columns support a deep overhang that provides shade for the all-glass façade of the building's west elevation. Visitors can enjoy the outdoor landscaped courtyard, which includes seating areas and serves as a secondary waiting area.

The large glass atrium foyer features a welcome desk and a place to store coats and umbrellas. Security checkpoint equipment is integrated into the millwork for a seamless transition from the lobby area through the light-filled waiting areas, which are modeled after an airport's hold-room.

"The process of becoming a U.S. citizen should be a positive one," says Blake Mourer, Gensler's project designer. "In designing the public areas, we avoided things that can contribute to a negative experience, such as long lines, enclosed waiting rooms and confusing signs. Instead, we aimed for a more humane, direct and streamlined process."

It is fitting that a building named after the famous explorers Lewis and Clark should itself be recognized for exploring new territory. The Lewis and Clark State Office Building in Jefferson City, MO, is the first state government office building in the nation to earn a LEED Platinum rating.

From its inception, the building, designed by BNIM Architects, reflects the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' mission of preserving, protecting, restoring, and enhancing Missouri's natural, cultural and energy resources. The building houses the DNR's director's office, field services division, administrative services, and some programs of the Division of Environmental Quality and Division of State Parks.

During the construction process, contractors used materials and products that conserved resources, such as a flyash concrete mixture, and recycled as much of the construction debris as possible. In addition, the building enhances user health and productivity through user controls, under-floor air distribution, and access to daylight and views.

The building also uses 50 percent less energy than a conventional office building by utilizing the latest developments in daylighting technologies, advanced electrical lighting and control systems, efficient building envelope design, and highly integrated and innovative HVAC systems. For example, external above-window pre-cast concrete light shelves allow penetration of sunlight during the winter and help heat the building. They also shade floors below during the summer to eliminate both heat gain and uncomfortable working conditions. Internal lightweight light shelves help to extend lighting into the building. Additionally, photovoltaic roof panels provide 2.5 percent renewable energy, with the objective to ultimately create up to 20 percent through future installations.

All materials specified meet federal recycled material content requirements. For example, exterior features such as walkways, benches and landscaping materials are made from reused, demolished building brick. Landscaping includes native indigenous plants, grasses, shrubs and trees that require no additional water other than normal Missouri rainfall levels.

Nearly 400 employees work in this 120,000-square-foot state office building, which will also serve as an educational tool for the public, including a gallery with displays explaining its many sustainable features.

"This building was not designed and built to win awards; it was designed and built to serve the people of Missouri," said Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder at a recent news conference. "In other words, it's not a show pony; it's a workhorse—an incredibly efficient workhorse."

Boston's Logan International Airport's Terminal A is the first airport terminal in the United States to be awarded LEED certification. Intended to be a national leader in customer service and the environment, the facility, designed by HOK, incorporates design features that maximize green technology.

Terminal A opened to Delta Air Lines' customers in March 2005, receiving rave reviews for its combination of amenities and aesthetics. HOK worked with Delta and the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) to incorporate a variety of sustainable strategies including the use of recyclable materials, natural lighting, energy conservation and alternative fuel utilization while helping to reduce operating costs. LEED certification, which was awarded in August 2006, was based on a number of features that positively impact the airport and the broader community.

These features include:

  • special storm water filtration devices to remove total suspended solids and total phosphorous from site runoff
  • roofing membrane and paving to reflect heat from the building and thus limit the associated heat island effect (this also helps lower cooling demand on mechanical systems in peak summer months)
  • drip irrigation instead of spray head to reduce the water required for irrigation by at least 50 percent; low-flow lavatory fixtures and waterless urinals reduce the water used in the restrooms by more than 30 percent
  • special Low-E glass to reflect heat away from the windows to minimize heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer
  • extensive use of daylight and lighting controls
  • more than 75 percent of the construction and demolition waste was reused, recycled or otherwise diverted from area landfills
  • more than 10 percent of all building materials were from recycled materials
  • more than 20 percent of materials used were manufactured locally
  • special measures to control construction contaminates from adversely affecting indoor air quality
  • adhesives, sealants, paints and carpets were specified to have very low or no-VOCs
  • composite wood materials were specified to use an alternative to urea formaldehyde
  • ground service equipment electrification program
  • participation in the Massport-wide recycling program

The redevelopment of Terminal A is the cornerstone of Massport's $4 billion Logan Modernization Program, which also includes an expanded central parking facility, streamlined roadway connections, elevated walkways connecting the terminals and parking facilities, and an expanded and modernized international terminal.

One and Two Potomac Yard is now home to more than 1,600 employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These two, 12-story buildings, which have earned LEED Gold certification, are a tangible symbol of the agency's core mission: to protect human health and the environment.

Comprised of office, retail and public space, Potomac Yard sits on a 2.9-acre site that was formerly an abandoned railroad yard. It was developed by Crescent Resources, LLC, with Davis Carter Scott serving as architect for the core and shell, and Metropolitan Architects & Planners as architect for the tenant fitout. EPA will lease more than 400,000 square feet of the facility for 10 years, housing elements of two divisions.

The 650,000-square-foot facility features two connecting towers with Energy Star-rated rooftops, which reduce cooling demand for the building. Employees enjoy natural daylight in their work spaces, while Energy Star lighting fixtures and appliances, automatic daylight dimming, and occupancy sensors help reduce energy usage. To offset 100 percent of the emissions associated with the facility's annual electricity consumption, EPA procured 4.2 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy certificates that support wind power generated in Nebraska, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

EPA's commitment to saving water is evident in the restrooms, which feature high-efficiency faucets with electronic shutoff, dual-flush toilets and low-flow urinals.

Regional and drought-resistant landscaping eliminates the need for irrigation systems, and on-site sand filters treat stormwater runoff to reduce contamination of the nearby Potomac River. Between the two towers, a small green roof also helps minimize stormwater runoff, while also providing a pleasant outdoor space.

The building was designed and built according to EPA's revamped headquarters recycling program. To meet that requirement, the developer recycled 71 percent of the construction period waste, diverting 2,000 tons from landfills.

Low-VOC adhesives, paints, sealants, caulks, and other environmentally preferable janitorial products and pest management practices help to meet high indoor air quality standards. Additionally, 27 percent of the materials specified contain recycled content; 63 percent were manufactured regionally within a 500-mile radius; and 83 percent of wood-based materials and products were FSC-certified. Modular furniture systems were chosen for ease of assembly and disassembly to encourage reusability and reduce churn costs.

In addition to LEED Gold certification, facility managers also anticipate receiving the Energy Star building label within the next year.

Oregon's newest hospital is proud to also be one of the nation's greenest. The Providence Newberg Medical Center (PNMC), designed by Mahlum Architects, received LEED Gold certification, making it the first hospital on the West Coast to earn this designation.

PNMC is the first hospital to be built from the ground up in three decades by Providence Health System (PHS). Providence executives decided early in the process that this $70.6 million facility should set the standard for good stewardship. They also estimate that in just 14 months, the facility will have repaid its initial investment, and in just over a year, the new facility will save nearly 26 percent in annual energy costs.

"It's the smart way to build," explains Richard Beam, PHS director of energy management services. "We use our natural resources responsibly, we reduce our energy costs, and as a result, we put more money back into patient care and the community. Most importantly, we create a healthy building for patients and staff." Integral to the project's success were the ideas generated from energy and eco-charrettes—intense brainstorming forums intended to develop green strategies and concepts that would create an exemplary, high-performance building. Highlights of this 180,000-square-foot green medical facility include:

  • 100 percent outdoor air fills the building through a unique ventilation system, creating a dramatically healthier indoor air quality for patients, visitors and employees
  • 100 percent of all electrical needs are met by purchasing green power (50 percent wind, 25 percent geothermal, 25 percent low impact hydro); PNMC is the only hospital in the nation to purchase 100 percent green power
  • participation in a Portland General Electric (PGE) program allows PNMC to sell power produced by the medical facility's two, 750 kilowatt emergency generators to PGE in times of peak demand for the utility; the energy produced by the generators can power up to 3,000 homes
  • occupancy sensors, daylight controls and centralized lighting control systems turn off lights when spaces are unoccupied

Additionally, all public spaces and waiting areas include use of natural light, and feature views of nearby hillsides and natural scenery on the 56-acre campus. Courtyards also increase natural lighting inside the building and result in every patient room having a natural light source.

Stoller Vineyards, producer of world-class artisanal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is enjoying the poignant taste of success since the announcement that its new state-of-the-art winery received LEED Gold certification—the first and only winemaking facility in Oregon to have accomplished this prestigious goal.

Located in the Willamette Valley town of Dayton, the Stoller winery, designed by architect Ernest Munch, serves as an example of what can be accomplished when environmental consciousness, visual aesthetic, and production functionality are partners in the design process. The 23,000-square-foot winery is situated on a 373-acre hillside planted with pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. It is the last major addition to the property, following construction of a pair of barns and a personal home.

The winery instituted many stringent sustainable design processes into the new facility, including:

  • an estimated 70 percent of its electrical needs are being generated from solar panels
  • a gravity-flow system also contributes to significant energy savings while lessening the impact on grapes during the winemaking process
  • recycled construction materials were employed throughout the building
  • catacombs built into the winery provide an eco-friendly space, ideal for the production and aging of wine
  • rainwater runoff from the winery is collected in a pond
  • wastewater is reused to irrigate a nearby pasture, and process solids (skins, stems, and seeds) are used by a local organic dairy to fertilize its pastures
  • cellars are cooled with nighttime air pulled through a thermal mass into the space by a fan at the winery's lowest point; even in summer, the night air dips to 55 degrees, making it possible to maintain cellar temperature in a low-impact manner

"I was born on this property and spent much of my life here," says owner Bill Stoller. "The goal is to leave it better than we found it … something for our grandchildren to enjoy. We intend to maximize the quality of wine we produce while minimizing the facility's ecological footprint."

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