LEEDing the Way

SDSUs Associated Students is two steps closer to achieving LEED certification for every A.S. building.

Monday, June 15, 2015
The green roof atop the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union reduces heat and promotes a natural habitat.
The green roof atop the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union reduces heat and promotes a natural habitat.
“The green roof atop the union reduces heat and promotes a natural habitat. Solar panels on top of the union reduce carbon consumption.”

The Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union and the Aztec Recreation Center are now LEED Certified, pushing San Diego State University closer to its goal of making all Associated Students facilities LEED Certified by 2020.

When plans for the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union began, “the students made a commitment that the building would be certified to the highest level of recognition—LEED Platinum,” said Director of Facilities and Sustainability, Glen Brandenburg.

After more than a year of evaluations and approvals, the building has earned LEED Platinum for New Construction.

“The passion that came from previous student leaders is invigorating, and to see this building, our campus living room, reach our LEED Platinum goal is a monumental moment to be an Aztec,” said A.S. Sustainability Commissioner, Megan Goodman.

The ARC, which has roof-top photovoltaic panels that save annually an estimated 300 tons of greenhouse gas, achieved LEED Gold Existing Building: Operations and Maintenance certification. The facility also replaced all inefficient overhead incandescent light fixtures with highly efficient fluorescent light fixtures.

What LEED means

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED stands for green building leadership. “LEED is transforming the way we think about how buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated across the globe.”

In order to be certified, each project requires specific implementations and must follow strict LEED guidelines.

One example, which can be found in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union, is Forest Stewardship Council certified doors. The mahogany doors are made from sustainable wood that came from a well-managed forest allowing them to be tracked back to its origin.

Sustainable elements in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union also include a “green roof” that reduces heat and promotes a natural habitat; natural daylighting, which reduces dependence on artificial lighting and saves energy; solar panels to produce energy from the sun; and underground tanks to store captured rain water for irrigation.

The Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union, which opened in March 2014, offers a variety of programs and services that complement the academic experience and enhance the campus community.

The certification process

In 2008, a group of motivated students came together to form the Green Love Sustainability Advisory Board within A.S. The recommendations of this student group have carried on through the years, ultimately leading to higher standards of energy efficiency and sustainable practices on campus.

By 2013, the Mission Bay Aquatic Center became the first A.S. structure to be certified LEED Platinum.

“The passion comes from the students,” Brandenburg said. “They recognize the value of a LEED certification because it is a rigorous, comparative process. Detailed documentation is crucial to getting certified.”

There are four LEED categories: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. There are two primary certifications of which SDSU A.S. buildings and facilities can qualify for: Existing Building: Operations and Maintenance and New Construction.

Existing structures that become LEED certified must be recertified every five years. The MBAC will need to be recertified in 2018 and the ARC, in 2020. However, newly constructed structures, like the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union will retain their certification for life.

Brandenburg said, Viejas Arena will be the hardest to certify, because of its unique uses and the task of comparing it to similar structures. 

“We do have unique A.S. buildings on campus, but that won’t deter us from reaching our 2020 goal,” Brandenburg said.

Nearing the finish

In addition to receiving LEED Platinum for New Construction, A.S. and the university are working toward LEED Platinum for Existing Buildings; Operations and Maintenance for the Student Union, which would apply a “double-platinum honor” for the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. This title is only held by 11 other structures in the world. The only other double-platinum building in the region is the SDG&E Energy Innovation Center, located in Clairemont.

A.S. is working to become LEED certified in other projects including: the Aztec Aquaplex, Viejas Arena, and the Children’s Center.

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