Following the LEED-er

The color for the season seems to be green. Not only is it one of USF’s signature colors, it also carries a handful of connotations: money, new growth and, more recently, eco-consciousness. At USF, the construction of the new Marshall Center involves all of these issues.

Upon completion, the new Marshall Center could do more than just offer a larger student union – it could serve as a symbol of progress in eco-friendly development on the USF campus. With the spread of knowledge regarding the importance of green buildings and learning from the progressive model set by the University of Florida, USF could be on its way to a greener campus.

One of the most widely accepted ways to exhibit a building’s eco-friendly construction is by pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED is the leading standard of sustainable design for new and existing structures.

According to, the criteria for LEED certification includes six main categories: site selection, water efficiency, energy use and atmospheric emissions, material and resource selection, indoor air quality and design process.

Although a small student movement lobbied to have the new Marshall Center submitted for LEED certification, the structure was not presented to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED for certification.

“We wanted a green design, but we didn’t have the budget luxury to have the plaque on the wall to say that the building was LEED certified,” said Joe Synovec, director of the Marshall Center. “We, as an institution, made a decision that we could not afford LEED certification.”

The costs associated with green building construction are generally 15 percent more than a traditional building’s budget, but the advantages are clear.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, green buildings come with social and economic, as well as environmental, benefits. Economically, green buildings can reduce the operating costs of a structure as well as create and augment markets for green products and services.

Social benefits include increased occupant productivity, comfort and health, increased aesthetical value, reduced strain on the local infrastructure and an increased overall quality of life.

Green buildings also take into consideration their impact on the surrounding environment. These eco-conscious structures can enhance and protect biodiversity and ecosystems, improve air and water quality, reduce waste streams and conserve and restore natural resources.

Despite not receiving LEED certification, the new Marshall Center features sustainable design elements within its construction, such as building orientation to maximize natural daylight, energy efficient features and the use of sustainable materials and recycling of demolished materials, according to the new Marshall Center project Web site.

“We’ve designed a building with sustainable principles,” said John Curran, architect of the new Marshall Center. Curran, a LEED Accredited Professional (AP), said that the building holds up the LEED principles of conservation and energy consciousness.

“With the associated costs, the University could either do LEED certification or sacrifice square footage,” Curran said.

Although the structure was not certified, David Starman, engineering co-chair of the Emerging Green Builders (the USF chapter of the USGBC), is heading a movement to use the new Marshall Center as a teaching tool.

“The point of our group is not to harp on not getting LEED certified,” Starman said. “The point is to generate enthusiasm so the student movement can be stronger for the next project. History is history – we’re trying to move everyone forward.”

Architecture students will perform a mock certification, Starman said, and go through the LEED assessment process with the help of local architecture, engineering and construction firms who have LEED AP on staff.

One way that the University could achieve a more sustainable campus is to follow the lead of a fellow Florida school. While USF has no LEED certified structures on campus, UF is the state leader with 40 LEED buildings and another13 buildings going through the process. Two are LEED Gold certified, the second highest rating, and three are certified. The remaining 35 are LEED EB (existing building), which means the buildings were evaluated based on “whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs, and systems upgrades,” according to the USGBC Web site. New construction ratings are based on design and construction efforts, whereas existing building ratings are focused more on the operations of a building.

Although there is an undeniable gap between USF and UF in achieving a greener campus, it is not unthinkable that the former could eventually reach UF’s benchmark status. Given an increased level of concern and awareness by students, faculty and administration, USF could be well on its way to a more sustainable existence.

Director of the Office of Sustainability at UF Dedee DeLongpre-Johnston said of UF and USF, “We share one thing in common: the weather.” According to DeLongpre-Johnston, 52 percent of a building’s carbon footprint comes from energy usage. “We have to spend a lot of energy dehumidifying buildings,” she said. “They aren’t made for passive cooling.”

With a common environment comes a shared necessity for stewardship. Despite UF’s advanced awareness and progress concerning this responsibility, USF administration doesn’t see it as a competition.

“Issues of sustainability have increased in importance in the minds of everyone over the last few years,” said Ken Gullette, director of media relations for USF. “I don’t see it as pressure in competing with other institutions so much as a responsibility toward the environment.”

Marshall Student CenterCost: $64 millionSource of Funds: Capital Improvement Trust Fund, student fees, bond financingArea: 228,000 gross sq. feetStatus: Construction phaseOccupancy: July 2008Architect: Gould EvansEngineer: SasakiInformation from Facilities Planning and Construction.

Sustainable Design FeaturesSustainable Materials: Recyclable steel structure, recyclable carpet tile, linoleum, stained concrete, certified wood products.Energy Efficiency: Occupancy sensors for lighting, building orientation maximizes daylight and minimizes heat gain and high performance glass optimizes energy performance.Information from project Web site.