Duke’s Buildings Among ‘Greenest’ in Higher Ed

About 4.5 million-square feet on campus is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council

Environment Hall, which has a LEED platinum certification, is one of 41 Duke buildings making up 4.5 million square feet of LEED certified space.
Environment Hall, which has a LEED platinum certification, is one of 41 Duke buildings making up 4.5 million square feet of LEED certified space.

With all of the construction on campus in recent years, it’s easy to focus on concrete being poured and steel being erected, but with every project, there’s a distinct aspect of sustainability many may not see.

Duke has received 41 Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certifications for following a set of design guidelines to encourage a focus on sustainability. For more than a decade, all new construction and major renovations on campus have committed to prioritizing efficiency in building, energy and water for projects, which often result in LEED certification, a rating system that evaluates the sustainable performance and design of a building.

According to estimates by Duke’s Facilities Management Department, Duke has 4.5 million square feet of LEED certified space across its footprint, from the two newest buildings at the Duke Lemur Center (silver) to the East Campus Steam Plant (gold) and Environment Hall (platinum). Buildings at Duke Kunshan University in China have silver and gold certifications, an uncommon feat for new construction in the country.

In all, the total of square footage is among the most in the country for higher education institutions. Duke has roughly the same amount of LEED certified square footage the entire state of Utah added in 2015, as tracked by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“LEED has been a useful tool for Duke to document our high performance building efforts with a goal of constructing buildings that will last for decades,” said Tavey Capps, director of Sustainable Duke. “Making these projects as efficient as possible saves money, greenhouse gas emissions and other resources in the future.”

So far this year, Duke has had five buildings achieve LEED certification at Duke Kunshan University and West Union's certification is in progress. More buildings are expected to reach the goal in 2017 and Duke's Sustainable Building Policy helps reiterate campus commitment to high performance construction and prioritizing energy and water efficiency goals for building projects.

The Student Health and Wellness Center, which will open next year at the corner of Union Drive and Towerview Road, has already earned 35 design phase credits out of the 50 needed receive for a silver certification. Environmentally friendly features include low-flow faucets and efficient piping that will use 35 percent less water than a standard building of similar type. Glass walls that let in abundant sunshine and a modern heating system will cut energy costs by 21 percent, an equivalent of about $27,000 a year in savings.

One feature that will receive LEED points is truly unique.

“In an effort to preserve and utilize materials that had to be cleared from the wooded area on-site, we’re going to use oak from the trees on an atrium wall, reception desks and pharmacy,” said Alphonso Alonzo, project manager with Facilities Management. “Three benches will be produced from oak timbers that were harvested from the site, too.”

At the recently reopened West Union, a 38,000-gallon cistern collects storm water that can be used for irrigation. The West Union also features reclaimed wood for flooring and some paneling and heat recovery systems that will help it achieve LEED silver status. Blue Devil Tower, the newest addition to Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium, is on track for silver certification due to water and energy efficient fixtures like low-flow toilets, glass walls that provide plenty of natural lighting and a white roof to reflect sunlight and potentially lower heat and energy costs.

“Duke has established an even more aggressive Sustainable Building policy that goes beyond just LEED to set a University Green Building Energy Consumption standard with an approval protocol to ensure new building projects prioritize utility efficiency," Capps said. “Each step we take to enhance the sustainability of our buildings means Duke emphasizing our goal of prioritizing efficiency that helps our bigger campus climate goals."