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Updated 11:00 AM May 17, 2005




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Greenest academic building in state of Michigan at U-M

The School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) has received a gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for renovation of the Samuel T. Dana Building. This is the first major academic renovation to receive such a high rating for sustainable construction in the state of Michigan and among the first in the country.
The entrance to the Samuel T. Dana building is shaded by trees. The color is appropriate, as the facility recently received a major award from the U.S. Green Building Council for its sustainable construction. (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

"We are so pleased that the USGBC has recognized the tremendous efforts of our faculty, staff and students in the School of Natural Resources and Environment as well as those of our Dana Building renovation project team members," President Mary Sue Coleman says. "The Dana Building has become a place where environmental principles are taught and literally demonstrated to the community. It provides students and researchers with sustainable building data on some of the most cutting-edge building design practices."

The USGBC is a non-profit agency that manages the LEED Green Building Rating System, a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Fewer than 300 projects have received LEED certification to date. Of these, 56 projects have achieved the LEED gold rating level.

The Dana Building excelled in six USGBC evaluation criteria: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design process.

"Our building allows us to live what we teach: sustainability," says Rosina Bierbaum, SNRE dean. "The building is a living, learning center and is a unique example that serves as a model for environmental sensitivity, education and awareness that clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of green building principles."

The Dana renovation project was completed in 2004 at a cost of $17.7 million, with $11.2 million provided through state of Michigan capital outlay funds. Significant aspects of the renovation that contributed to the LEED gold rating included: 31 percent reduction in water use through installation of low-flow plumbing fixtures, composting toilets and waterless urinals; 30 percent reduction in energy use through installation of high efficiency lighting and one of the first installations of a ceiling-mounted radiant cooling system in the United States; and retention of the historic 1903 structure and shell, plus more than half of the original interior elements, while upgrading the building to create a state-of-the-art educational environment.

During planning of the renovation, faculty, staff and students collaborated with architects, engineers and contractors to retain the character of the 100-year-old building and to analyze the environmental benefits and improved performance of individual aspects of the renovation. Through this cooperative effort, materials normally discarded during refurbishing (bricks, attic timbers, and old windows and doors) were reused throughout the building, thus diverting material from landfills. Southern yellow pine attic timbers were made into conference tables and wood trim.

Additionally, rubber flooring made from recycled rubber, ceiling panels made from biocomposites, bathroom tiles made from recycled glass and toilet partitions made from recycled plastic bottles helped to transform the renovation project into a unique, sustainable building design laboratory.

"With the generous support of the Ford Motor Company, the Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the Wege Foundation, Michigan citizens, and alumni and friends who contributed to this innovative project, the school was able to achieve both a sustainable building design and improve the facilities for teaching and research," Bierbaum says.

Some renovation elements will provide additional research opportunities within the school. Two types of photovoltaic panels on the roof of the building allow students and researchers at the Center for Sustainable Systems to collect data and compare the performance of thin film and multicrystalline solar panels. These photovoltaic panels convert sunlight energy into electricity, which is fed through a Ballard inverter for immediate use in the building.

The renewable energy system was made possible through support of the Wege Foundation, Ballard Power Systems, United Solar Ovonic Corp. (Uni-Solar) and the University, Bierbaum says, and is another example of the school putting into practice principles taught in the classroom.

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