LEED certifications at USF in progress

USF may soon become certifiably more sustainable.

The Interdisciplinary Science Teaching and Research Facility (ISA) building applied to become Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified two weeks ago and is now awaiting approval.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) website, buildings with LEED certification are measured for sustainability, water efficiency, energy use, materials and resource, and design innovation.

Currently, the Patel Center for Global Solutions is the only USF building that is LEED certified, said Suchi Daniels, USF Facilities and Maintenance LEED coordinator.

The Carol & Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare will be certified pending its final submittal, she said, and the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation building, which is currently under construction, has submitted its preliminary design for approval. In addition, the in-progress Wellness and Nutrition Center, the USF golf facility at The Claw and the revamped Sun Dome will soon submit their designs for LEED certification.

Christian Wells, director of the Office of Sustainability, said in an email to The Oracle that the certification is vital to USF’s initiatives to enhance campus sustainability.

“The LEED certification process is a very useful way of helping us design, build and operate eco-friendly buildings on campus,” he wrote. “This is important because academic buildings are not neutral factors in the learning environment – our buildings have a hidden curriculum that teaches students just as effectively as our courses do. If we want our students to be environmentally literate, global citizens, then we need to teach our classes in buildings that are aligned to this goal.”

The process requires several stages of planning and application, said Mark McLaughlin, project executive of Skanska, the company contracted to build the Patel Center and ISA building. To apply, criteria including design phases and construction must be approved by the USGBC.

McLaughlin said Skanska, like many construction companies today, offers to construct and design buildings to meet LEED certifications for a slightly higher cost.

“It’s becoming a pretty routine thing to do,” he said.

McLaughlin said USF approached Skanska requesting to construct a building that would meet LEED Gold standards – the highest of three levels of certification.

When constructing the ISA building, McLaughlin said the typical building design needed rethinking.

“A lot of efficiency factors, such as the way the building is heated and cooled, had to be included,” he said. “We had to create a decrease in energy consumption.” McLaughlin said.

Low-volume water fixtures in bathrooms and glass panels replacing electric light fixtures to harness Florida daylight are featured in both the Patel Center and ISA building.

Daniel Yeh, an assistant professor in environmental engineering, teaches a course on LEED certification, something he said is a worthwhile investment for USF.

“It’s important to get LEED certification,” he said. “It’s a statement about the University’s commitment to sustainability.”

According to tbo.com, the Patel Center cost $18 million and the ISA building cost $80 million. Yeh said the sustainability of the buildings, however, pay for the increased cost and 30 percent of all buildings in the U.S. are currently LEED certified.

“If one in three buildings are being LEED certified,” Yeh said, “then that’s saying something about the leaders.”

Daniels said Facilities and Maintenance hopes to soon certify more new buildings to support USF’s sustainability missions.