New NAU building earns ‘greenest in state’ distinction

January 25, 2008

By hammersmith

[Source: Anne Ryman, The Arizona Republic] – A new building at Northern Arizona University has earned the distinction as being “greenest in the state” for being energy efficient and using sustainable materials. The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the new Applied Research and Development building a platinum rating, the highest possible. The national building rating system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, awards points in several areas, including energy conservation, use of renewable resources and innovative technology.

NAU’s building earned 60 points out of a possible 69. NAU’s 60 is the highest number awarded so far to any building in Arizona.

Nicknamed the “ARD Building,” the three-story glass-and-brick structure sits at the northwest corner of Knoles and University drives behind the Target store. The nearly 60,000-square-foot building features soaring windows that let in lots of natural light. Automatic window shades open and close to regulate inside temperatures.

Some of the building’s energy-efficient features are straightforward, including low-pressure faucets and toilets, automatic window shades and low-water landscaping. Other aspects are more unique. Thousands of recycled blue jeans, for instance, serve as ceiling insulation.

NAU President John Haeger said the university plans to incorporate green features in all new construction. “The building itself reflects the ethics of the university, of being environmentally conscious,” he said. University officials say the building’s $25 million price tag is about 10 percent higher than traditional buildings. But they point out that lower operational costs will more than make up the difference.

Arizona Public Service Co. donated a solar-power system which, combined with other technologies, enables the building to cut electricity use by 60 percent. Burns Wald-Hopkins Architects designed the building, which took about three years from conception to opening, said Rich Bowen, NAU’s associate vice president for economic development.

Employees have started moving in. In the next few months, NAU’s Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics will take over the third floor. The lab, overseen by Professor Paul Keim, is famous for its research in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. Keim and his team discovered that the anthrax letter that killed a Florida photo editor came from a genetic strain identical to one developed in U.S. government labs. Besides the anthrax lab, the building will house offices for the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, among others.

NAU’s building is the latest in a green-building trend. The U.S. Green Building Council has certified more than two dozen new Arizona buildings with various green ratings, although none are as high as NAU’s. Arizona State University built the state’s first platinum-certified new building in 2007, the Biodesign Institute’s Building B. That building earned 52 points. Worldwide, about 70 buildings have platinum status, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.