UB Publishes "Green" Design Guidelines, Influencing its Own Construction Projects and Others in New York State

Release Date: December 15, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. – The next generation of buildings at the University at Buffalo will be the "greenest" ones it has ever constructed, thanks to a new set of guidelines on constructing green, or environmentally sustainable, buildings, published recently by the university.

Developed with the support of the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, (NYSERDA), the guidelines also are expected to influence the state's major construction agencies: the State University Construction Fund, responsible for construction on SUNY campuses, and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, which constructs dormitories, parking ramps, office buildings, prisons and nonprofit health-care facilities.

Both agencies participated in developing the UB guidelines and are expected to use them to improve their own green design efforts, while NYSERDA also is expected to use the guidelines in developing statewide recommendations for green design.

Since publication this fall, other colleges and universities, as well as other states, agencies and private architectural firms, have been requesting copies of the "UB High Performance Building Guidelines."

"We embarked on developing these guidelines as a way of informing our own design teams how to build more sustainable buildings and, in the process, we reached out to the other state agencies who were trying to do similar things," said Michael Dupre, UB associate vice president for university facilities.

UB and the other state agencies were responding to Governor Pataki's Executive Order 111, which took effect in December 2001, directing state agencies, authorities, SUNY and other state entities to be more energy efficient and environmentally aware. The order also mandated that new construction follow green building design principles and be 20 percent more energy-efficient than required by the state energy code.

"The whole idea of high-performance buildings and green design has been seriously embraced by other states, as well as building owners, developers and design firms nationally," said Dupre.

That's because green design has proven itself in a very short amount of time, said Kevin Thompson, UB director of university facilities planning and design and chair of the UB Green Design committee, which produced the university's guidelines.

"The benefits are both quantifiable, like energy use, and non-quantifiable," he said. "Look at indoor air quality in a building, for example. Sick-building syndrome results from poor construction and not very good design. But when you improve air quality indoors, sick time is reduced and workers are more productive.

"Studies have shown that in elementary-school classrooms, if you put in skylights or windows so kids have access to daylight, they test significantly higher than kids in the same grade in a classroom next door where they don't," he said.

In addition, Thompson noted, green design concepts such as the use of paint colors that require less lighting indoors and roofing materials that reflect sun instead of absorb it are increasingly popular.

And while some green design practices do cost more up front, Dupre and Thompson noted that such measures save institutions money in the long-run.

But despite the rapid acceptance of the benefits of green design, none of the existing green design manuals seemed to fit all the criteria that UB and the other agencies were seeking.

"There wasn't one out there that fit what we wanted to do," said Thompson, "so we decided to do our own."

The result, "UB High Performance Building Guidelines," takes what Thompson calls a "user-friendly approach" to green design.

Typically, he said, design teams interested in sustainable buildings have worked backward from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification criteria, which are voluntary, consensus-based national standards for evaluating high-performance, sustainable buildings.

"But the LEED criteria are not structured according to the typical design sequence," Thompson explained. "So we broke down the LEED rating system according to the way design teams really think. The advantage of the UB guidelines is that they start with a holistic design approach and plug in the LEED criteria at each step where they apply."

The guidelines provide a comprehensive look at site selection and design, architectural design, indoor environmental quality, mechanical systems, lighting equipment and utilities, water management, materials and resources, and construction and commissioning.

From reducing the development "footprint" in order to conserve existing habitat, reducing storm-water runoff and using environmentally preferable building materials to incorporating courtyards and using the size and shape of windows to maximize daylight, the guidelines bring green concepts to every phase of the design and build process.

The "UB High Performance Building Guidelines" also provide a detailed introduction to the LEED criteria, as well as potential barriers to green design and national trends.

For its part, UB is a recognized leader in energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable practices. It opened Western New York's first LEED certified building -- the community building in the Creekside Village student housing complex -- in 2003.

The Buffalo Life Sciences Complex, slated for completion in January 2006 in which UB is a partner with Roswell Park Cancer Institute, also is expected to achieve LEED silver certification, a rarity since laboratory buildings with their heavy energy use do not typically qualify.

In addition to the members of the UB Green Design committee, which included UB faculty and staff, and the state agencies involved in developing the UB guidelines, consultants from New Civic Works and Phoenix Design guided the process and made significant contributions to the development of the document. The final product was reviewed by Steven Winter Associates, a recognized leader in the field of green design.

The "UB High Performance Building Guidelines" document may be downloaded at http://wings.buffalo.edu/ubgreen/guidelines.html.

Hard copies or CDs of the 150-page manual also may be obtained from the UB Green Office, University at Buffalo, 220 Winspear Ave., Buffalo, New York 14215, by sending an email to ubgreen@facilities.buffalo.edu or by calling (716) 829-3535.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.

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