July 7, 2011

It's LEED gold for Hach, biorenewables laboratory

by Anne Krapfl

The Biorenewables Research Laboratory (opened April 2010) and Hach Hall (August 2010) have captured two more LEED® certifications for Iowa State. Ratings for each building reached the Gold level, the No. 2 spot on the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) four-tiered scale.

The U.S. Green Building Council developed the LEED system for designing, constructing and operating the most energy-efficient and high-performing buildings. Points are accrued in six categories: design innovation, site plan, materials and resources, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, and indoor air quality. "Science facilities are especially difficult to achieve certification on, so this is a big accomplishment," said Kerry Dixon-Fox, coordinator for sustainable design and construction in facilities planning and management.

For example, she noted that fume hoods pulling air out of lots of laboratory space means less air is recirculated and more outside air needs to be heated or cooled, which cuts into a building's energy efficiency. And, LEED certification aside, she said a building has to function the way its tenants need it to.

"We're not simply chasing [certification] points," Dixon-Fox said. "Things have to make sense first for Iowa State."

Some university decisions -- no lawn sprinkler system on central campus, "green" custodial practices and the no-smoking policy, for example -- automatically score points for Iowa State in the LEED rating system.

Hach Hall

Some of the sustainable design and construction features in the new chemistry facility are:

  • Use of natural daylight throughout to minimize artificial lighting -- including natural lighting in all offices
  • Occupancy sensors to automate artificial lighting
  • Low-flow fume hoods equipped with sensors for fewer air exchanges when labs aren't occupied
  • Chilled water recirculation
  • Roof rainwater is collected in a cistern and used to flush toilets and urinals
  • Construction and finishing products (paint, carpet) emit low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which improves the indoor air quality for the people who work and study there

Ninety-seven percent of the construction waste generated during the project (about 5,400 tons), including existing building demolition, was recycled, and about 18 percent of the construction materials used in Hach Hall contain recycled materials. The building is 47 percent more energy efficient than if it was built to existing code.

"Hach Hall has elevated the chemistry department in its ability to perform cutting-edge research and teaching, and has helped the university recruit and retain exceptional faculty and students because of this stimulating environment," said chemistry professor and department chair Keith Woo. "Many of our faculty are involved in green research and we are delighted that we can do so in a sustainable facility."

Biorenewables Research Laboratory

About 28 percent of the materials used in constructing the BRL have recycled content, and the interior doors and cabinets are bamboo, a more renewable wood than hardwoods. More than 90 percent of all interior spaces have views to the outside and the overhead lighting is programmed to diminish when the daylight is bright.

As with Hach Hall, 97 percent of the construction waste generated during the project (nearly 900 tons) was kept out of landfills and recycled, and paints, sealants and flooring were selected for their low (or no) emissions of VOCs. Room monitors signal the need for more outside air when carbon dioxide levels rise. The BRL is 35 percent more energy efficient than if it was built to existing code.

An adjacent two-story laboratory for pilot-scale research has a vegetated roof that features biomass plants. The northeast corner of the building site has a rain garden to capture stormwater runoff.

"Research in the Biorenewables Laboratory has the goal of replacing petroleum with biorenewable feedstocks like switchgrass and cornstover. This will be much easier to achieve if we also learn how to consume fewer resources while growing our economy," said Robert C. Brown, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering and director of the Bioeconomy Institute. "The efforts of the LEED certification program to improve energy efficiency and achieve resource sustainability are complementary to our research programs in biorenewables. We are pleased that these efforts come together in the facility."

Up next

Other campus buildings with LEED certification are Morrill Hall (Silver) and the King Pavilion addition to the College of Design (Platinum). Dixon-Fox said Iowa State will pursue LEED certification for the State Gym renovation and addition, and two buildings on which construction will begin this summer: Troxel Hall and an office/training facility for the Cyclone football program.