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LEED Design in Academic Buildings

College campuses often need additions, updates, or renovations to accommodate ever-evolving fields of study, technology expectations, and growing student bodies. Modern legislation and societal pressures encourage academic buildings to achieve a level of LEED Certification from the United States Green Building Council. Several factors must be considered for LEED Design in Academic Buildings and four important components for CambridgeSeven’s  LEED design efforts are:

  • Performing Feasibility Studies
  • Comparing Building Opportunities
  • Sourcing Responsible Materials
  • Optimizing Technology

Performing Feasibility Studies

Assessing space utilization, existing building systems, and building envelope performance are the key initial steps of sustainable design to weigh options of design and construction that enable informed decision making. Schools with underutilized or vacant space that no one wants to use because it’s uncomfortable or outdated can benefit from a modest renovation or adaptive reuse in which the space is architecturally transformed. Campuses that require additional space can take advantage of an architectural addition, new construction or renovation that provides desirable space. During feasibility studies, we consider the institutional needs to right-size and future-size, while working within the project budget and site parameters to develop design options that achieve the sustainability goals and programmatic visions identified.

Comparing Building Opportunities

Feasibility Studies reveal building opportunities for new builds, renovations, and expansions. It’s arguable that the most sustainable design uses existing structures, minimizing CO2 emissions that are inherent in construction. The practice of adaptive reuse has gained much popularity for architects, especially those practicing in older cities,  like Boston, with numerous old, retired buildings. However, it can be more challenging to retrofit an existing building with sustainable, LEED accredited, features as opposed to one that’s newly built.

New construction provides the opportunity to alter a campus’ fabric by shaping a new campus green space, creating a barrier from street noise, and incorporating new places of rest and gathering. New site selection also considers the availability of sunlight, access to other parts of campus or local transit, and effects on local flora and native plantings.

UMass Health and Social Sciences
The LEED Silver Health and Social Sciences Building at UMass Lowell shaped the campus quad to increase privacy and safety.

Sourcing Responsible Materials

Building material selection is much more than creating beautiful facades – facades that students and faculty will have to look at for a long time! Selecting building materials for sustainable design entails understanding of product durability, local resources and regional markets. Typically, more local means more sustainable. Using local building material decreases the need for fossil fuels in transporting materials from long distances. This in turn reduces air and water pollution associated with transportation and supports the local economy.

Williams Bookstore Design - CambridgeSeven
Local materials in the LEED Platinum Williams Bookstore include granite and brick on the exterior.

Optimizing Technology

Active and passive technologies can be used in numerous ways to make more sustainable building choices for campuses. Even in lab and research buildings that require heavy, energy-consuming equipment, architects have options to specify materials and equipment for energy savings. Some options include:

  • Low-energy recirculating hoods in labs
  • Rainwater reclamation systems
  • Automatic daylight shading to reduce the need for artificial lights
  • Passive heating and cooling systems to replace or assist forced air
Bowdoin College Roux Center - CambridgeSeven
Our design for the LEED Platinum Roux Center for the Environment created a high-performing lab building that respects its natural environment.

Implementing LEED Design in Academic Buildings is a very achievable goal for institutions and designers. With sustainability requirements becoming the standard in the building industry, it’s important for designers to rigorously explore the various possibilities for incorporating smart, efficient, and effective solutions.