Renovations strive to cut emissions

As construction on the future home of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies moves forward on Science Hill and the new environmentally friendly building begins to take shape, the University continues to make progress toward its sustainability goals.

When it opens in the winter of 2008, Kroon Hall — which will feature rooftop solar panels, a geothermal energy system, a rainwater harvesting system and natural lighting, among other features — will be one of a growing number of Yale buildings that follow the University’s strict standards for environmental sustainability. In 2005, Yale established protocols mandating that all new buildings adhere to sustainable construction and design standards that are more rigorous than those of nearly all other universities.

Renovation plans for the Kroon Building will include several environmentally friendly energy features.
Renovation plans for the Kroon Building will include several environmentally friendly energy features.

Administrators said following these standards will be essential for the University in meeting its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus.

During the Groundbreaking Ceremony for Kroon in May, Forestry School Dean Gus Speth called the building a “pacesetter in sustainable design.” At the event, University President Richard Levin said Kroon will be the “leading institutional building in the United States in terms of climate friendliness and environmental sensitivity.”

Kroon will be climate neutral, meaning it will emit no net greenhouse gases, Speth said in his comments.

Sustainable buildings are rated according to standards known as LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — and receive one of four designations: certified, silver, gold or platinum. Tom Downing, senior energy engineer for System Engineering Facilities, said that under Yale’s current policies, all new buildings are required to surpass Silver standards.

According to the Yale Office of Sustainability, Kroon is expected to receive a platinum LEED rating. The new building will use nearly two-thirds less energy than a comparable academic building.

Yale currently has six buildings in the design stage that are designed to meet or surpass the silver standard, Downing said. He said the University has built three buildings that have been designated as either silver or gold, and the new sculpture building between Howe and Park streets — completed over the summer — is expected to be designated gold, pending LEED certification.

Julie Newman, director of the Office of Sustainability, said the construction of buildings with LEED certification is an integral part of lowering greenhouse gas emissions on campus.

“Sustainable buildings alone will not lead to a sustainable campus, but a sustainable campus will not be developed without sustainable buildings,” she said.

Yale’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy, which was announced in 2005, mandates a 43 percent reduction of emissions below 2005 levels, Newman said. Conservation in the form of construction and efficient energy use — which represents about two-fifths of total reduction goals — is the most significant component of this reduction, she said.

Downing said the University’s steady campus growth has made the incorporation of sustainable construction and design practices critical.

In an August 2007 report on its Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy, the Office of Sustainability announced that the University would be considering adopting a “revised, more stringent Sustainable Building Design and Construction Guideline.” Yale will continue to raise the bar on its sustainability practices, regardless of whether or not it updates its standards, Downing said.

Michelle Addington, an associate professor in the School of Architecture and the School of Forestry, said Yale has good reasons for focusing on design and construction sustainability, since buildings are the largest single consumer of energy in the United States.

“We really need to be concerned about energy consumed by building systems [such as ventilation],” Addington said.

Kroon Hall will feature artificial light sensors that will shut off lights in rooms that are not in use, according to the Office of Sustainability’s Web site.

As the University continues to erect new buildings to reduce energy emissions, students can do their part to promote sustainability, said Kate Gasner ’09, co-director of the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership. In 2005, Yale undergraduates pledged to reduce their energy use by five percent each year until 2008, but students are not on track to reach 15 percent by next year, Gasner said.

Kroon Hall will be named for alumnus Richard Kroon ’64. The $40 million building complex will feature two courtyards, a 175-seat auditorium and an environment center.

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