GV partners with U.S. Green Building Council to collect data, evaluate benefits of green buildings

Molly Waite

With 11 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designs-certified buildings on the Grand Valley State University campuses, the university has created a partnership with the West Michigan chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council to database the performance of the “green” buildings.

“I think we understand generally what the benefits are of LEED-certified buildings, but this project provides us with the opportunity to get at some real data,” said Norman Christopher, executive director of the Sustainable Community Development Initiative.

Junior Justin Pattermann, one of the students working on this project, said completing the databases is the easiest way to comparatively measure building performance against other similar buildings by tracking performance, construction, design and cost data for the individual buildings.

“We hope to prove that the LEED-certified buildings at GVSU are performing as well as they were intended to,” Pattermann said. “We also hope that this project will promote LEED certifications for new buildings by showing that in the long run, (these) buildings save money and are good for the environment and local economies.”

LEED-certified buildings typically cost 20 to 30 percent more to construct, Pattermann said, which discourages builders from designing buildings to meet the LEED standards. He hopes the project will prove to investors that the increased building performance will pay back the expense, while simultaneously protecting the environment.

Bart Bartels, project manager for the SCDI, said there was a 9.6 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per students between 2006 and 2009. He believes the most likely reason for this decrease was the savings from the GVSU LEED buildings.

Buildings receive LEED standing based on a system of credits, said Scott Whisler, project manager of the LEED AP. Credits include energy savings, building site design, material use and waste management.

“To say that a LEED building is always more energy efficient would be false, but GVSU tries to get as many credits in each category as realistically possible,” Whisler said.

Whisler also said he works with the USGBC West Michigan chapter to develop teams that will work with building owners, helping them document and track building energy performance. The data will be released in a book to showcase all the buildings that were studied, bringing more awareness to green buildings in West Michigan.

“Our society today calls everybody to consume,” Pattermann said. “The problem is that we need to use large, often excessive, amounts of resources in order to consume at the level at which we have become accustomed, and this is unsustainable. The only way for us to continue to consume at our current levels is to fully utilize the resources we have, reduce or eliminate waste, and replenish the resources that we do use to ensure that we do not run out.”

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