Many universities across the country are striving to design new residence halls based on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The latest version of these standards, LEED version 4 (LEED v4), shifts some of the responsibility for achieving certification from the design and construction process to the end-user and life cycle of the building. This change is requiring new training and a shift in the behaviors of students, residence life staff, maintenance, and housekeeping staff.
LEED v4 places a major emphasis on sustainability education and building usage for the next generation of residence halls. This is a new challenge where everyday student behaviors can have a quantifiable impact on the immediate environment. LEED v4 was officially launched in November 2013, though projects were still able to seek certification under the previous version, LEED v2009, through October 2016.
There are four major areas where the new LEED v4 has made significant modifications:
- Materials: The new requirements are designed to better understand the composition of the materials being used and their manufacturing and assembly process. Creating a ‘healthy’ building has become a major focus by awarding certification points for selecting materials that are sustainably sourced and focused on end-user/occupant health.
- Performance: There is an increased focus on the performance of the building, operations and maintenance during the life cycle of the building, which requires an increase in metering and benchmarking.
- Energy Consumption: The new version places a greater emphasis on smart grid usage and optimizing the energy consumption of the building during peak demand times to reduce usage spikes.
- Water Consumption: LEED v4 takes a more comprehensive approach to better understanding overall water consumption of the building, not only from the design and construction point of view, but also from the operations stand point, with an emphasis on “efficiency first.”
Under LEED v4, the performance and energy and water consumption of a residence hall is directly tied to student behaviors. For example, encouraging students in Florida to set their room temperatures to 78 degrees and adding a fan will save up to 10 percent on cooling temperature and the air movement will alleviate the sense of heat. The moisture removed from the air in order to keep the proper relative humidity inside the building can be easily reused for irrigation, the cooling tower or greywater usage.
Specific student behaviors related to sustainability can be altered through design or influenced by Resident Advisors (RA) and the university as a whole. The new LEED v4 regulations require the university’s full commitment to the LEED process.
For example, the Suites @ 201 Reserve Street at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point features a central ‘recyclables only’ chute on every floor to encourage students to recycle. At other universities, RA communities host competitions for a pizza night to see who can reduce their energy usage the most.
Over the years, KWK Architects has observed the trends of institutions and their full commitment to the LEED process, and the use of LEED as a guideline to set the tone for the general quality of the building. Through extensive research, we know which student behaviors are successful in reducing energy usage, and which ones fall flat. Listening to student input, encouraging behaviors that promote sustainability, and being committed to the entire LEED process will achieve the greatest results for universities under the LEED v4 guidelines.
About the Author
Javier Esteban, AIA, LEED AP, is a Principal at KWK Architects. He has a Master of Architecture and Urban Planning from the Advanced School of Architecture in Madrid, Spain and a Master of Construction Management from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Javier has been active in student life design for more than 20 years and has managed numerous new construction and renovation projects for universities across the country, including: Levine Residence Hall at University of North Carolina Charlotte, Corbin Hall at University of Kansas, North Residence Hall at IUPUI and Williams Village East at University of Colorado Boulder.
About KWK Architects
KWK Architects is driven by a passion for meeting student needs with innovative yet practical design solutions. Founded in 2013 by five architects who had been working together as firm principals for over 15 years, KWK has designed more than $1 billion in higher education projects in the last five years. KWK works with public and private universities nationwide, creating spaces that build community and enhance the student experience.