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Good as Gold

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    Southwestern's new Wilhelmina Cullen Admission Center has been officially certified as a "green" building.
  • News Image
    It's official - Southwestern received LEED certification for its new Admission Center. (Photo by Carlos Barron)

New admission center receives Gold LEED Certification

It’s official. Southwestern’s Wilhelmina Cullen Admission Center has been awarded Gold Certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System™.  

The LEED Rating System was launched in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council and is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. LEED certification offers third-party validation of a project’s green features and verifies that the building is operating exactly the way it was designed to.

“Southwestern’s new admission center joins a prestigious group of projects that are the greenest buildings in Texas,” said Michele Van Hyfte, AIA LEED AP, advisory council chairperson for the U.S. Green Building Council Central Texas – Balcones Chapter. 

The Admissions Center is the second project in Georgetown to receive LEED Certification. There are 28 certified projects in the Austin area and 150 in Texas.

LEED is a point-based system where building projects earn LEED points for satisfying specific green building criteria. Within each of the six LEED credit categories, projects must satisfy particular prerequisites and earn points. The six categories include Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation in Design. The number of points the project earns determines the level of LEED Certification the project receives. LEED certification is available in four progressive levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Southwestern scored 46 out of a possible 69 LEED credits for the building. A Gold rating requires between 39 and 51 credits.   

The admission center received the highest number of LEED credits – 13 out of a possible 15 – for Indoor Environmental Quality. This was achieved by using low VOC-emitting paints, coatings, adhesives and carpet throughout the building. Only approved chemicals and methods will be allowed for cleaning and pest control.  

The building’s water efficiency features – including dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals and solar-powered, timed faucets – are estimated to save 33,000 gallons of drinkable water a year. Water-efficient landscaping will also result in 52 percent water savings on irrigation compared to traditional planting.  

The building’s energy efficiency features, such as reflective roof shingles and insulation means it will use nearly 40 percent less energy than a typical building of the same size.  

Forty-one percent of the building materials, including the Austin cream limestone veneer and the custom roof trusses, were extracted, harvested and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. This reduced the economic and environmental impact of transportation. Ninety-two percent of construction waste was diverted from the landfill through recycling.  

Bob Mathis, associate vice president for facilities and campus services, said smart design allowed Southwestern to achieve the LEED certification at little to no cost to the university. For example, he said, fixtures such as the waterless urinal cost less since less plumbing is required. The design team found interior finishes that were sustainable and comparably priced to traditional finishes. Other features such as the drought-tolerant plants and exterior limestone have been the campus standard for years. 

The building was designed by Group Two Architecture of Austin. Other firms involved with the project included LEED consultant Monarch Design/Consulting; HMG & Associates Inc., which did the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering; Jaster-Quintanilla & Associates Inc., a structural engineering firm; civil engineering firm Steger Bizzell; Energy Engineering Associates Inc., which oversaw the design and construction as part of the LEED process; and general contractor Skyline Commercial Inc. 

The new admission center opened in January 2009 and houses all of Southwestern’s admission counselors and financial assistance staff. The one-story, 9,602 square-foot building was completed at a cost of $3.3 million.  

Mathis said many of the features used in the admission center will be incorporated into the Prothro Center for Lifelong Learning, which is currently under construction.