What’s big and green and sits on the WSU Vancouver campus? LEED buildings

Appearing in print Jan. 22, 2013, the article “What’s big and green and sits on campus? LEED buildings,” inaccurately reported the Engineering and Computer Science building’s LEED certification as silver. The Engineering and Computer Science building is in fact LEED gold certified, as stated on the WSU Vancouver website. As indicated on the U.S. Green Building Council’s website, The Engineering and Computer Sciences building received 42 points out of 69 on the LEED scorecard. For more information about LEED scorecard categories and LEED gold certification requirements, visit new.usgbc.org.

The Engineering and Computer Sciences Building received a LEED gold rating last semester. This was the second LEED certified building constructed on the WSU Vancouver campus. The Undergraduate Building earned a LEED gold.

The plaques awarded for these ratings are displayed in the lobbies of the buildings, but nowhere does it explain what a LEED rating means.

U.S. Green Building Council LogoLEED, an acronym for Leadership in Engineering and Design, was adopted by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1995.  The non-profit certification group aims to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated. The goal of LEED is to enable an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. The LEED concept was created by founder, Robert Watson, a well-know leader in the green building sector, who has more than 25 years of experience operating and designing environmentally sensitive buildings.

In 2005, the Washington State legislature passed a “first of its kind” law requiring all state-funded buildings and building renovations to meet or surpass a minimum set of green building standards. The criteria that qualify a building for certification are diverse and extensive. Intended to improve positive environmental and aesthetic impact, certification incentivizes builders to use sustainable building practices and materials, cost-effective, high-performing insulation and sealants and power reduction and generation products and practices. Water use reduction and rain collection, filtration and dispersion back into the ground water is also a key factor for certification.

Engineering and Computer Science Building photo by Cyndie Meyer

Engineering and Computer Science Building photo by Cyndie Meyer

Several criteria qualified WSU Vancouver buildings for LEED certification. Water management practices were one important factor: Toilets in LEED buildings are equipped with water-saving flush handles and the restroom faucets are automated. Maintenance employs “green” cleaning products and heating and cooling are automatically controlled. Other LEED features include a comprehensive recycling program, lighting efficiency, the use of the LEED-certified landscape and building materials. VUB also drains rainwater into a bioswale on the east side of the building

Some members of the broader design community argue against LEED certification. Critics charge that it is too difficult to match general LEED criteria with design demands on build locations. They say the certification process is expensive and time-consuming. Proponents answer that LEED, as with all newer concepts, will become more efficient over time. They recommend that, in the interest of conserving resources including capital, LEED criteria and processes should be scrutinized and adjusted to compensate or eliminate inefficiencies.

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