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An Upgrade with Green in Mind

by Brianna Kuplent

Horizon Reporter

According to Green Building Elements, an organization focused towards greener building practices, construction produces over 8, 000 pounds of waste per 2, 000 square-foot house. The majority of the waste is wood, cardboard, and drywall leftover and requires an un-sustainable amount of fuel and materials when produced and transported. As a part of Whatcom Community College, sustainability is embedded in our community and building greener is a priority.

To counteract this amount of waste, Whatcom’s campus has to abide by a state standard to operate and build at a sustainable level. Washington State requires all colleges and universities to operate at a sustainable level, and the government enacted a program that verifies buildings constructed from strategies and resources that had a reduced impact on the environment. The program Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, and issues certifications, silver, gold, and platinum, to colleges that have met the standard. The new requirements for the government program that came out in 2009 focused on high performance buildings.

            Keeley intends for some future buildings to be at a gold level. One building is the Auxiliary Services Building that will start to be constructed in June.

            The Auxiliary Services Building will be a service building for maintenance, custodial, shipping and receiving, and for storage. It will be 16, 000 square feet, roughly the size of Baker Hall.

            “Looks achievable at this point,” said Keeley, who attended a sustainable building workshop and is applying it to the college’s campus.

            The Auxiliary Services Building will have solar panels, and rain collection bins to irrigate the plants around campus. Keeley is looking through the College Foundation, an organization that gives scholarships and loans to colleges, to get donated solar panels.

“I’m right now waiting to get the cost estimates for those panels,” said Keeley. The panels “may not be there right when the building is built.”

The building will collect and pre-treat storm water before it drains to the wetlands. The two rain gardens will filter the water, the water goes to a retention vault, then is released and naturally flows to a wetland. The building will also have lighting controls that will control the amount of lighting in a room and radiant floor heating, a system that uses heated water through tubing in the floor to warm a room.

This new building is planned to be accessible to students, classes such as physics students could observe solar rays that the panels would absorb, and biology classes if the college decides to build a greenhouse.

As a drawback to getting the certifications, Keeley said that LEED waits to see how much energy the building is saving and if that outweighs how much it cost to build it. “You don’t receive your LEED certification until a year after the project is completed,” said Keeley. The program tests to see if, “high operational cost outweighed the energy-saving cost.”

“A LEED building should not cost more to construct than a non-LEED building,” said Keeley. But, he noted, the added costs of consultants, designers, and verifications do make those buildings cost more and that the codes can work against efforts to be green.

The panels and other features to the Auxiliary Services Building will be what makes it gold standard compared to Whatcom’s buildings that are already silver standard. Kulshan Hall is silver because of its heat recovery system. The heat from the fume hoods that would normally be released from the buildings are filtered and redirect clean air to heat parts of Kulshan. Other buildings on campus are also silver because of window positions, cutting down heating costs.

            “We have several buildings that take advantage of daylight,” said Keeley.

This month, the lights in the Laidlaw Center, Syre Student Center, and Heiner Center will be retrofitted to save energy. The same lighting controls will also be in the Auxiliary Services Building. A grant from the Dept. of Commerce, $227, 000 plus the utility savings from the modification, will fund daylight sensors that will turn off when there’s enough sunlight and turn on when it gets dark.


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