University of Vermont

Aiken Center Earns LEED Platinum

First platinum building on UVM campus, highest scoring LEED building in Vermont

EcoMachine water samples
Researcher Matt Beam shows water samples before and after treatment by the EcoMachine in UVM's George D. Aiken Center. The EcoMachine, which Beam designed, mimics the natural system of a wetlands. When it is operating fully, it will reduce Aiken’s water use by more than two-thirds and eliminate all discharge to the city’s sewer system. (Photo: Andy Duback)

The University of Vermont’s George D. Aiken Center has earned a LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the highest award the group confers. The Aiken Center is the first building on the UVM campus to receive the honor and the highest scoring LEED platinum building in the state. Vermont has five other LEED platinum buildings.

The award for the Aiken Center, home to the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, is especially noteworthy because it recognizes work done to renovate an existing structure; the original was built in 1982. The 41,000 square foot refurbished Aiken Center opened in January 2012 after an 18-month, $13 million renovation. 

“I am very proud that the George D. Aiken Center has achieved the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest honor, the LEED platinum designation,” said UVM President Tom Sullivan. “It is certainly the appropriate home for UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Congratulations to all who made possible this signature accomplishment.”

"This designation was made possible by incredible participation and collaboration of our community through the design, fundraising and building phases," said Jon Erickson, interim dean of the Rubenstein School. "Now Aiken is a living lab, engaging our students, staff, and faculty in research and education on building performance, storm and waterwaste treatment and our workplace behavior. “

In all, Aiken earned 60 of 69 potential points in the LEED evaluation, or 87 percent of the total. Although the LEED scoring system has changed over the years, no other Vermont building has achieved such a high percentage of the total points possible. In the current scoring system, 52 LEED points earns a platinum award.

LEED grants points across six categories, with many subcategories in each, but several aspects of the building’s design stood out for the LEED review committee:

  • The building received 10 of 10 possible points in the “Optimize Energy Category” within the broad heading of “Energy and Atmosphere.” The scoring committee singled out Aiken’s “significantly improved” building envelope, the “skin” of insulating material that was applied to the building after exterior bricks were removed and then re-applied during renovation. Also cited by reviewers were Aiken’s highly efficient window glazing, reduced interior lighting power density, its demand-control ventilation, energy recovery, photovoltaic panels, and district heating and cooling. Because of these factors, Aiken is modeled to reduce energy use by as much as two-thirds over the original structure.
  • The building received all three possible points for “On-Site Renewable Energy,” also within the “Energy and Atmosphere” category. Aiken is credited with the energy produced by 17 solar trackers at the U.S. Forest Service site on Spear Street in South Burlington. The trackers are projected to offset 30.47 percent of the building’s energy costs.
  • Aiken received five of five possible points in the "Water Efficiency Category." The building’s “EcoMachine,” a wastewater treatment system that mimics the natural system of a wetlands, will be used to treat and then recycle wastewater in the building. Aiken received three of the five points in the subcategories of “Innovative Wastewater Technologies” and “Water Use Reduction.” When it is operating fully, the EcoMachine will reduce Aiken’s water use by more than two-thirds and eliminate all discharge to the city’s sewer system.
  • The building received 13 of 13 points in the broad category of “Indoor Environment Quality.” The review committee cited improved ventilation, a system that monitors and controls the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, and the wide variety of low-emitting materials the renovated building makes use of, from adhesives to carpeting to paints and coatings. 
  • The Aiken Center received all five possible points in the “Innovation and Design Process” category. Three of the five points again focused on the building’s energy features: energy cost savings are projected to be 40.7 percent, renewable energy is projected at 30.47 percent, and the green power purchase was double the base credit requirements, equal to 100 percent of the predicted annual electrical consumption over a two-year period.
  • Aiken received the maximum two points for using building materials that were sourced within 500 miles of the building. It received another point for its twenty-seven thousand board feet of Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood paneling, which came from UVM’s Jericho Research Forest.

UVM’s LEED total: one million square feet

The University of Vermont is home to more than one million square feet of LEED-certified space, in eleven buildings. In addition to the Aiken platinum, seven UVM buildings are certified at the LEED gold level and three at the silver level. UVM adopted a green building policy in 2004 stating that all new construction and major renovations must be formally commissioned and achieve LEED silver certification or the equivalent.

Students have played an important role throughout the process of the Aiken Center’s renovation. Classes have been involved in the design, implementation and monitoring of many of the building’s green features. Student interns are working on dozens of annual research projects including water quality monitoring from the green roof, energy efficiency rating and improvements and a prototype for a green wall to enhance indoor air quality.

The project was supported by more than $4 million in private contributions, in addition to a $900,000 grant from the EPA funded by an appropriation secured by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Architects for the building were William Maclay Architects of Waitsfield, Vt. The general contractor was PC Construction Company of South Burlington, Vt.