Davis Center First Union in Nation to Receive LEED Gold Designation
By Jeffrey Wakefield Article published February 20, 2008
The spectacular, four-story atrium in the Dudley H. Davis Center, the new student union that opened at the University of Vermont in August 2007, routinely elicits ooh's and ah's from visitors.
Few would know, however, that the space is also an ingeniously engineered natural chimney that evacuates smoke, in the event of fire, without needing energy-intensive mechanical systems.
The atrium/chimney is one of a variety of features in the Davis Center that has made it the first student union in the country to receive the LEED Gold designation from the U.S. Green Building Council. The council’s tiered LEED system recognizes buildings for exemplary environmental design and construction.
“We’re thrilled that the Davis Center has received this first-in-the-nation accolade,” said UVM president Daniel Mark Fogel. “In pursuing our goal of being a premier environmental university, we wanted to set the highest environmental standard for this signature UVM building. We more than met our goal. The team of UVM staff, students, faculty, and external consultants who oversaw and executed the design and construction of the Davis Center deserve the highest praise for their creativity and hard work.”
Specific elements of the building’s green design that earned it points on the LEED applications include the following:
Energy efficient design. The Davis Center is expected to use 52 percent less energy than a conventional building of the Davis Center’s size. Key energy-reducing design elements include sensors that regulate electric lighting based on the amount of daylight entering the space and air conditioning, heating, and ventilation regulated by occupancy sensors. The building also has a high performance “envelope” of exterior walls and insulating systems; a heat recovery system that uses exhaust air to either pre-heat or pre-cool the fresh air entering the building; and mechanical systems that are designed to fit the precise needs of the space they serve.
Reduced water use. Waterless urinals in the building reduce water use by 41 percent. In addition, the project’s landscape design on the exterior of the building and on its storm-water-absorbing green roof feature native plantings, which do not require a permanent irrigation system.
Widespread use of locally harvested and manufactured construction materials. Sixty-three percent of the material used in the Davis Center construction was manufactured or sourced within 500 miles of the site, including the center’s 280,000 bricks, which came from the Vermont Brick Company in Highgate, and the 62,000 slate shingles on its roof, which came from Camara Slate in Fair Haven. When there was a choice to purchase from a local manufacturer or distributor or one from outside the northeast region, the university chose to purchase locally, even when costs were slightly higher.
The Davis Center also received four “Innovation in Design” credits for design features and programs over and above those on the application checklist. Those credits include:
A natural smoke evacuation system. The Davis Center’s atrium/natural chimney functions as follows: A row of windows on the top floor of the atrium and louvers on the second level open automatically when the fire alarm senses smoke and establish negative pressure that draws the smoke up and out of the space. The system is an example of the university investing in cutting edge design and technology that also saves energy.
An education-oriented building monitoring and display system. Imbedded in the Davis Center are 175 sensors placed in strategic locations to provide data on energy used for heating and cooling, electricity, water usage, and soil moisture, content, and temperature on the building’s green roof. Beginning in late February, the data will be displayed on the Web and on a kiosk located in the corridor under Main Street. The monitoring system is designed to educate students and the larger community about the amount of natural resources the Davis Center and its occupants are consuming on a real-time basis. All the data will be logged and will be able to be viewed in several time scales, consumption equivalents, and quantitative comparisons.
Other features that earned the Davis Center LEED credits include interior spaces that maximize daylight, offer exterior views, and eliminate air contaminants; a green landscaped roof to reduce storm water runoff; extensive use of products with recycled content; and recycling of over 92 percent of construction waste by weight, including deconstruction rubble from an existing building on the Davis Center site, which was used as the base under an adjacent roadway and parking lots. The project also earned points for promoting alternative transportation via its pedestrian/transit accessible location, which reduces automobile trips to the facility, the free alternative fuel shuttle bus service serving it, and its encouragement of bicycle use and carpooling.
The U.S. Green Building Council awards LEED certification, in ascending order, at the Certificate, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels.
UVM established a green building policy in 2005, requiring all new and renovated buildings to reach the equivalent of the basic LEED certification level. After President Fogel signed the Presidential Climate Commitment Challenge in 2007, the policy was revised to state that buildings should achieve the equivalent of the LEED Silver level.
Other LEED buildings on the UVM campus include the University Heights Residential Learning Complex, which received a Gold certification, the Carrigan Wing addition to Marsh Life Sciences, which received LEED Silver, and the Wing/Davis/Wilks Residential Complex renovation, which also received a Silver. The 438 College Street historic preservation renovation and addition is under review for a Silver certification. WTW Architects of Pittsburgh, architect of record, partnered with TruexCullins & Partners of Burlington to design the project. The architectural team spearheaded the LEED design and registration process. The general contractor was William A. Berry & Son of Danvers, Mass. Linda Samter served as the owner representative's LEED consultant, working closely with Michelle Smith Mullarkey, UVM’s green building coordinator. UVM faculty, staff, and students, guided by UVM project manager Ray Lavigne, were also actively engaged in the formulation of the LEED strategy.