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Gaige Building awarded prestigious LEED green building certification

The Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building at Penn State Berks
The Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building at Penn State Berks. Image: Penn State
December 3, 2013

The Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building at Penn State Berks has been awarded LEED gold level certification, established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

This is the first project at Penn State Berks to pursue LEED certification and the first at Penn State, outside of the University Park campus, to be awarded gold certification.

Among the innovative design elements noted in the award, is the collaboration with our students in the advanced business writing class that resulted in a signage program promoting a "Sustainability Awareness" program.

Designed to complement the natural beauty and existing architecture of the campus, the three-story structure is as cutting-edge as the learning and discovery that take place within it. The facility includes a range of sustainability strategies, including rainwater collection and a heat-recovery system, just to name a few.

The Gaige Building exceeded LEED requirements, and was evaluated in six major categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design.

Forty-two thousand square feet of natural habitat were preserved by constructing the Gaige Building on its current site, rather than in the woodlands behind the building. In addition, the wooden doors are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which ensures their composition comes from sustainable forests.

Aspects of the building that reflect the Water Efficiency category include two buttons to control the water needed to flush toilets, with low-flow fixtures. Two 35,000-gallon underground tanks collect rooftop rainwater (grey water) which is then purified and used to flush toilets, water plants, and wash the building exterior, for a 92-percent reduction in portable water consumption. Water bottle filling stations, equipped with motion sensors for touch-free sanitary operation, save energy and materials normally used to make, transport, fill, and cool typical plastic water bottles. Outside, the rain garden captures excess rainwater (grey water) from underground storage tanks. Native plants absorb this, preventing runoff and flooding.

The Gaige building adheres to various criteria for the Energy and Atmosphere component. Exterior features including light colored pavers, terracotta tiles, and a white roof reflect sunlight, saving 26 percent in energy costs for a typical building of this size. Sensors in hallway ceilings adjust interior lighting based on the amount of daylight entering the building. Natural light illuminates 95 percent of the building, promoting a more productive environment, while reducing energy consumption. All occupied public spaces have natural light from windows or doors; and all rooms contain occupancy sensors that turn lights on and off. Sunshades minimize glare, angling off incoming rays, and have an added benefit of reducing cooling costs. Twelve thousand square feet of layered windows contain argon gas, helping to insulate the building and reducing heating and cooling costs. Energy efficient thermal windows, LED lights, and motion sensors save 26 percent more energy than typical buildings of similar size. LED fixtures surrounding the building also focus light downward, reducing light pollution. They not only last longer, but use 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.

Under the Materials and Resources field, 20 percent of the material used in Gaige was made of recycled content, including steel beams, metal studs, aluminum panels, ceiling tiles and concrete blocks. An additional 87 percent of all construction waste was recycled or used as fuel, rather than being sent to a landfill.

Addressing the issue of Indoor Environmental Quality are terracotta tiles on the exterior of the Gaige building, covering uniquely-layered walls, which are designed to be waterproof. User comfort inside the building is enhanced with extra wide hallways, increased use of natural light, and advanced temperature regulation. In the lobby, an outside view can be enjoyed in all directions. A large Prototype Lab provides students with substantial work space for a hands-on engineering classroom. Overhead “snorkels,” which remove contaminants from welding, grinding and sanding, ensure a healthy environment. Sealants, glues, caulking and paints used in the building are low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These produce less harmful toxins than normal materials, improving indoor air quality. More than 30 percent of all the floors in the building are polished concrete with no covering; and green cleaning products are used. These products do not contain harmful toxins or chemicals, and their use reduces water consumption.

Additional features include PSU ID card readers, which allow access to rooms, eliminating the need for keys while improving security; these automatically shut off after hours. All doors can also be remotely locked during an emergency. Lastly, video conferencing rooms enable faculty members to hold class from remote distances, when they are unable to be present on campus.

In order to ensure that all elements in the building are functioning efficiently and continue to meet LEED standards, an independent party will re-commission the building one year after completion.


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