Buildings proven “green”

Yale’s emphasis on sustainable design has been winning wide recognition lately, with two new “green” buildings on campus receiving certifications from a nationally recognized organization.

The Malone Engineering Center, which opened last fall, was certified as meeting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Gold standard earlier this month, and Yale administrators said they expect the Class of 1954 Chemistry Research Building to receive a Silver rating in as little as a few days. The two laboratory buildings — the first new structures at Yale to be LEED certified — are influencing future construction and renovation plans on campus, according to administrators and an environmental design consultant who works with Yale.

The certifications mark the end of a six-year process that began with the first designs for the Malone Center. Sustainable design was a priority from the building’s inception, said Mariko Masuoka ’78 ARCH ’80, the design team leader for Cesar Pelli & Associates, the architects on the project.

Initially, meeting LEED standards — which were created by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000 and have since gained widespread approval as the foremost rating system for sustainable design — was not a priority, said Paul Stoller ARCH ’98, director of the New York office of Atelier Ten, the environmental design consulting firm that helped guide the Malone Center project through the sustainable design process.

“We were all testing if LEED would be a genuine tool [to measure sustainable design],” he said. “Many of the sustainable aspects of the design were already implemented by Yale. With LEED, we took a few more steps forward.”

The Malone Center earned 39 points from the Green Building Council, Program Manager David Spalding said, the minimum for a Gold certification. He said the Class of 1954 building was initially given 32 points, one shy of Silver status, but should reach 33 after the University’s mid-September appeal, which clarified the number of parking spots designated for the building.

Though the two buildings were designed around the same time, Spalding attributed the lower score for the Class of ’54 building to the Malone Center’s earning points available for improvements on the building site.

Both buildings house laboratory research facilities, complicating sustainable design plans and making the Gold and Silver ratings — the second- and third-highest levels, respectively — all the more noteworthy, designers and Yale officials said.

“It’s very difficult to get any LEED rating with a lab building,” Masuoka said.

Research facilities typically require considerable ventilation systems to maintain air quality, Stoller said, which is inherently energy-intensive. He said continuous ventilation is not actually necessary for a safe environment, and the air exchange rate was not changed on the Malone Center project. Instead, the design focused on increasing energy efficiency and cost savings over time, he said.

Virginia Chapman, director of construction and renovations at the School of Medicine, said lab buildings on campus are certified under the LEED standard for commercial spaces since there is no LEED standard specific to lab buildings.

Taryn Holowka, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Green Building Council, said a sustainability standard for labs should be in effect next year. Unlike office buildings, Chapman said, lab facilities use more energy per square foot due to the high concentration of research equipment, and they do not recirculate air.

Every new building at Yale is being designed to meet LEED Silver standards, Spalding said, with particular attention to points awarded for energy efficiency. Stoller said the process leading up to the two new certifications has made an impact on future design plans.

“The University would have been hard-pressed to demand [LEED] Platinum for the new Forestry School building,” he said, in reference to the Kroon Building, the future home of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, which will break ground this winter.

In order to reach Platinum certification, a building must receive 52 points, Spalding said.

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