Chico State’s first green structure rises steadily into the LEED
Joel Trenalone knows that fresh air and sunshine make people happier and more productive, which is why both elements will be incorporated into the environmentally friendly Student Services Center at Chico State University.
“It will be a nicer place to work,” said Trenalone, Chico State’s construction projects manager. “And it will create an opportunity for students to learn about sustainability.”
The facility’s main purpose is to serve as a one-stop shop for incoming students to enroll and get their ID cards, but it will also symbolize the school’s commitment to resource conservation.
Construction began in the fall on the 120,000-square-foot, four-story facility at West Second and Ivy streets. All the steel framing has been erected, and exterior walls will go up soon. When finished, the building will house many student services and offices, such as Academic Advising, Admissions, Student Records and Registration, Psychological Counseling and student groups.
The Student Services Center will be the first Chico State structure certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System—one of just a handful of structures in the 23-campus California State University system to carry the distinction.
LEED is a nationally recognized rating system, administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, that awards a project points based on sustainability in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The four levels of LEED stem from that scoring: certified (26-32 points), silver (33-38), gold (39-51) and platinum (52 or more).
Chico State’s Facilities Management Department is pursuing a gold certification for the Students Services Center. Everything from waterless urinals, open spaces and the use of recycled materials help a building obtain LEED certification, Trenalone said.
Conservation is important in the planning and construction phases. In addition to energy-saving motion detectors that shut off lights when they are not in use, materials for the project are purchased locally when possible.
“You can say you’re creating a green building, but if materials are coming from halfway around the world, you are wasting energy to get it here,” he said.
The total construction cost for the center is about $38 million.
Though the initial cost of building green at a gold level is higher in comparison to the cost of conventional construction—2 percent to 5 percent, Trenalone said—the facility’s energy-efficient design will save money in the long run.
Some of the practices leading to certification, such as recycling, come long before construction begins. At Chico State, the portable buildings that previously occupied the construction site were reused elsewhere; the surrounding asphalt was ground up and recycled, and plants were ground up into mulch.
Many of the structure’s features will create a more healthful environment for those who occupy it.
Natural light has proven to make people happier in their environment, Trenalone said, noting that windows, rather than fluorescent lighting, will play a big role in how the building is lit. Certified woods will be used for desks and cupboards instead of conventional lumbers that emit harmful gases. Other features will allow workers to adopt healthier lifestyles—Trenalone said he hopes the showers inside the facility will encourage people to bicycle or walk to work.
Scott McNall, director of Chico State’s Institute for Sustainable Development, echoed Trenalone, saying the university is focusing not only on the health of the environment, but also the health of the people who occupy the building on a daily basis.
“There are many bad buildings on campus. No windows, no fresh air,” he said. “If students don’t feel their best, they can’t pay close attention.”
Green academic facilities with windows and more circulation are planned for the future.
The next green building on campus will be the 130,000-square-foot Wildcat Activity Center. When complete in the spring of 2009, the facility will hold several Associated Students programs such as Adventure Outings and the Recreational Sports Department.
The A.S.-owned recreational facility will be built at the former home of the Reynolds and Stiles warehouses between West Second and First streets, extending over Orange Street. Workers are already preparing to lay the foundation, and actual construction at the site will begin in the fall.
Meanwhile, wrap-up on Student Services Center is scheduled for next spring.
McNall thinks the certification of the building will provide a concrete example of the university’s philosophy on sustainability, underscoring the importance of conserving the world’s resources.
“We must balance human, social, cultural and economical needs with the natural environment by respecting the natural resources of this planet,” he said.
McNall also said he hopes the Student Services Center will be a big step toward a more environmentally aware student body and faculty. The plan is that the building will serve as a learning tool for students and visitors. On an informational kiosk within the structure, a monitor will run real-time campus energy usage, showing the importance of energy conservation and building green.
“We want people to understand that it is possible to create a really beautiful and functional building that is also healthy for us and the environment,” he said.