Vol. 5 No. 3 | Jan. 24, 2008

 

Green NAU goes 'Platinum' with Applied Research and Development building

Northern Arizona University is home to the greenest building in Arizona and one of the three greenest in the world after receiving a "Platinum" rating for its Applied Research and Development building.


Photo by Jerry Foreman

The ARD building earned 60 points out of a possible 69 from the Leadership Energy and Environment Design building rating system from the U.S. Green Building Council. Only two other buildings in the world have earned at least 60 points.

The designation comes shortly after the university earned "Gold" ratings for buildings that house Engineering and The W.A. Franke College of Business.

The ARD building, which officially opened in September, also is the greenest building at such a high altitude. Flagstaff's 7,000-foot elevation poses engineering challenges not found at lower elevations.

Specifically, NAU's ratings require construction supplies that can accommodate northern Arizona's "freeze and thaw" temperature variations and the intense ultraviolet light that can quickly damage materials.

NAU President John Haeger has said that future buildings on the NAU campus will be built to "green" standards.

"Stewardship of place is not a new concept for Northern Arizona University," Haeger said. "Our Applied Research and Development building showcases our climate mitigation commitment and innovations in high-performance construction technology."

Energy sources for the 59,821-square-foot ARD building on the university's central campus include a photovoltaic solar power system donated by Arizona Public Service that provides at least 20 percent of its electricity. Automatic shade controls, venting windows and a "enthalpy wheel" regulate the building's temperature. The design and automated systems result in an overall reduction of energy consumed by 60 percent compared to traditional buildings.

"The ARD building uses the natural environment to operate rather than carbon-producing energy sources like natural gas or coal-fire plants," said Rich Bowen, NAU associate vice president for Economic Development. "Building green is good public policy, and high-performance environmentally responsible buildings have a greater return on investment than traditional buildings."

Bowen said 90 percent of waste materials generated from the building's construction made its way to recycling rather than landfills.

About 30 percent of the building's supplies are from recycled materials, including thousands of pairs of denim jeans used for insulation. And 57 percent of the materials are from local producers or manufacturers. Wood used in the building was certified to be harvested from a renewable forest-management system, located in Arizona's White Mountains.

The building's design includes no volatile organic compounds in its paint or carpet. To help insulate the buildings temperatures, a "green roof" on the building's conference unit will serve as a place to grow and maintain an indigenous vegetation cover requiring minimal irrigation. Plus, the ARD parking lot is the first installation in the state to use pervious concrete, allowing water to be captured in natural aquifers to be used for irrigation purposes.

Reclaimed water replaces potable water for landscaping use and flushing toilets, and water-efficient features such as low-pressure faucets and toilets reduce total water needs by 60 percent.

Natural light abounds through the open design and provides 75 percent of the lighting that includes an atrium area supporting collaboration among its occupants, including environmentally based organizations such as the U.S. Forest Service and NAU's Center for Sustainable Environments.

The top floor of the three-story building will be home to NAU's Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics, a research facility focused on understanding the evolution, ecology and epidemiology of a number of disease-causing bacteria.

Designed by Burns, Wald-Hopkins Architects and built by Kitchell Construction, the ARD building cost $26 million to construct, however, "The price tag is only about 10 percent higher than non-environmentally friendly buildings; however the design principles developed and knowledge gained during the design and construction of ARD will allow NAU and others in the state to build high-performance buildings for much less in the future, and the energy-saving features will make up the cost difference in the long run," Bowen said.

The building was awarded the 2007 Excellence in Structural Engineering Award from the Structural Engineers Association of Arizona.

On NAU's south campus, the "Gold" business building incorporates "adaptive comfort" technology that relies heavily on natural ventilation for cooling. The actual floor is raised 18-inches above a concrete slab and at night, cold air is drawn into the building and circulated over the slabs. During the day, as air moves through the building, these slabs cool the air around them.

The building also uses natural lighting as much as possible to reduce energy costs. And water use in the building takes advantage of a reclaimed water system available through the city.

The nearby Engineering building was virtually rebuilt, with the intended target of achieving a LEED "Silver" rating. However, the use of reclaimed water for all facility landscaping reduced potable water consumption by more than 50 percent, and use of reclaimed water in waste conveyance decreased overall potable water consumption by more than 90 percent.

In addition, high-energy lighting and the increase in the number of exterior windows significantly lowered electrical use.

Those factors, among several others, earned a higher "Gold" rating for Engineering.

NAU worked with the architectural firm Carter & Burgess and contractor Ryan Construction on the business building. The architect for the engineering building was Smithgroup and the contractor was Holder Construction Co. Both buildings officially opened in spring 2006.

Mark Wilhelm, founding member of the U.S. Green Building Council's Arizona Chapter and green building expert, said NAU is a good example of a university "going green."

"What sets NAU apart is that it is not just committed to building green, climate mitigation efforts and research are an important part of its curriculum, too," Wilhelm said. "NAU is walking the walk in terms of being environmentally focused."

LEED recognizes structures for meeting strict requirements for energy efficiency, material usage, renewable energy and locally developed materials. Only 19 percent of all certified LEED projects are designated "Gold," Wilhelm said.

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