Building designs integrate sustainability

Although their facades may be far from green, both the new Chemistry Research Building and the Malone Center are shining examples of green architecture.

The University has recently taken a holistic, environmentally conscious approach to new construction projects. Using sustainable, or “green,” architecture, means not only building the structure while protecting the existing site but also making sure it conserves and treats water that flows in and out, reduces energy consumption, and even improves the quality of the air both inside and out.

The construction also considers environmental implications in its design layout, mechanical systems and building materials, said Debra Lombard of Retec Group Inc, a company that worked with Yale as the sustainable design consultant and lighting designer for the new Chemistry Research Building.

Around campus, this new approach to design is visible at the Malone Center — the new biomedical-engineering facility — and the Chemistry Research Building, which the University dedicated on Monday. These buildings are two of the first projects the Yale has undertaken that utilizes environmental design.

Monday’s dedication of the red-brick Chemistry Research Building on Science Hill is indicative of Yale’s effort to become more sustainable. The new building was constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards, Yale Energy Manager Tom Downing said.

The LEED standards are mandated by the U.S. Green Building Council, a coalition of leaders from across the construction industry dedicated to making buildings both eco-friendly and profitable.

Some notable conservation-focused additions to the new Chemistry Research Buildinginclude heat recovery, variable fume hoods and occupancy sensors, he said.

The Yale sustainable architects and designers enlisted the expertise of many groups, such as Retec, to create a comprehensive approach for implementing environmental standards with state-of-the-art buildings.

“We worked with the architects, the civil engineers, the landscape architect, and the mechanical engineers and Yale to develop plans for this high-performance, sustainably designed building,” Lombard said.

Besides energy conservation, the Chemistry Research Building also attempts to improve the environment both inside and outside its walls.

“The building treats storm water for sediment, phosphorous, oils and other pollutants,” Lombard said. “Condensate from the air conditioning in the building is collected and used for landscape irrigation,” she said.

In addition, the design also considers those who work inside the building. For example, the planners improved the buildings’s indoor air quality by choosing better building materials that produce fewer emissions, Lombard said.

Academically, Yale is involved in environmental and sustainable design through the School of Architecture and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Architecture professor Jim Axley and ecology professor Stephen Kellert are currently working to develop a joint-degree program between their schools.

“Yale, with a number of initiatives, has made it clear that it will approach sustainable development and management on the campus very seriously,” Axley said.

When Yale begins planning a new building, a facilities project group hires an architect, engineering group and other consultants, Downing said. The parties develop a plan together, starting with preliminary design and then working down to specific details. During this design process, the Office of Facilities places some focus on sustainability and conservation.

The recently revised Yale University Design Standards for buildings and renovations now include requirements that incorporate the LEED requirements. The non-binding standards are intended to ensure that all new construction and renovation project designs meet LEED criteria to receive at least “silver” status from LEED.

“We want to put something out there so that when an engineer or architect comes back without [incorporating the LEED recommendations] they need to give a reason why,” Downing said.

But some say more improvement is still necessary.

“From all the reports I read or presentations I hear, we are not as good as we ought to be, but we are determined to get there,” said Lloyd Suttle, deputy provost for graduate and undergraduate programs. “We are aiming for the highest possible [LEED certification level] that is consistent with the program that the building is designed to accommodate. A residential building might have a very different LEED certification level than a laboratory building.”

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