LEED Case Study: To Sustain And Support

The renovated and expanded facility is the culmination of planning that began on Seattle University’s campus in 2001. (Photo: Doug Scott/Seattle University.)
The renovated and expanded facility is the culmination of planning that began on Seattle University’s campus in 2001. (Photo: Doug Scott/Seattle University.)

By Anne Cosgrove
From the October 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Opened in September 2010, the Lemieux Library & McGoldrick Learning Commons at Seattle University (SU) combines new construction and renovation to offer a state-of-the-art facility. The new facility was designed to blend student academic support services, scholarly research, collaborative learning, and social interaction in a technology rich, light filled environment. It was also designed as part of the university’s master plan toward increasing sustainability across the 50 acre campus in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area.

Founded in 1891, the university comprises eight schools and colleges providing undergraduate and graduate programs. Currently, about 7,500 students attend the university. The Lemieux Library and its Learning Commons Partners (writing center, learning assistance programs, math lab, and research services) promote student success through the provision of integrated services, collaborative programs, and effective referrals that draw on a variety of academic professionals in a single facility.

Making The Plan

Steve De Bruhl, senior project manager, facilities services, design and construction at SU, says, “As the university/owner’s representative, I facilitated the design committee in the architect selection and design process. During construction I managed the outside consulting firm, Bonewitz Project, who managed the construction. I managed and administered the budget and any communications regarding the project.”

From the facilities management standpoint, De Bruhl notes, “The lead drivers were all for academics. For facilities, we wanted a building that could be relatively easy to maintain and would be efficient to operate.”

The renovated building opened in fall 2010, creating a bold new mecca for students. Square footage increased by 50% to more than 125,000 square feet. The purpose of the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons was to create a multipurpose space not only for learning, but for socializing and exploring. The structure houses quiet and active spaces for students to work, computer labs, a media production center, writing center, and math lab. Along with those new features, the architects kept the white marble façade and double helix staircase, because those were important to the campus community.

Notes De Bruhl, “The existing white marble building has always been a bit of an anomaly on our campus. Generally the material used on campus are concrete, brick, metal, and glass. The architect did a beautiful job of finding the appropriate measures to tie the old and new together and relate it back to the larger campus material palette.”

Two Become One

In 2011, McGoldrick Learning Commons was certified LEED Gold for New Construction (version 2.2). The facility earned 46 points, with the category breakdown as follows: Sustainable Sites (10 of 14 points); Water Efficiency (three of five); Energy & Atmosphere (11 of 17); Material & Resources (six of 13); Indoor Environmental Quality (11 of 15); and Innovation (five of five).

The project involved gutting the five story, 92, 677 square foot Lemieux Library, built in 1966. The new space, McGoldrick Learning Commons, consists of 32,963 square feet and is a three story building. The lowest floor of the McGoldrick addition (Plaza level) is located one story below the lowest floor of the existing library. The second and third floors of the addition match up with levels one and two of the library.

Bringing together new and old meant deciding which systems would be installed throughout the entire facility, and which would be treated separately. “We kept a good part of the existing mechanical system in the old building,” says De Bruhl. “The addition features new mechanical systems throughout. There are places in the building where these systems interface, and a lot of effort was put forth to make them work together.”

In addition to specifying highly energy efficient equipment, this project involved incorporating technologies that were aimed at boosting facility’s energy performance. For instance, the second floor of the addition uses chilled beam technology for cooling. Water runs through pipes in the ceiling beams, and cool air drops down into the space below through natural convection (rather than using fans). This reduces energy use, compared to more traditional cooling methods, and it’s also very quiet.

For heating the McGoldrick addition, the team chose to employ raised flooring with underfloor air distribution (UFAD). This is another strategy used to increase energy efficiency as compared to other choices on the market, and the university has used this approach in several other buildings on its campus.

Additionally, UFAD was specified for its relative silence, even temperature control, and ability to hide support utilities and HVAC ventilation. Fabric ductwork was used in the system design.

“We recommended the raised floor concept because its efficiency would help with LEED credits, plus the building design featured 18′ floor to floor spaces that would be difficult to heat efficiently,” explains Mark Stavig, P.E., principal of CDi Engineers in Lynnwood, WA, who oversaw the system design along with Leslie Jonsson, P.E., LEED AP, a mechanical engineer at CDi.

In some projects, UFAD has resurged recently after engineers have found solutions to recurring challenges of plenum pressurization and thermal decay in perimeter and high heat or cooling load areas near windows. Pressurization and thermal decay issues were minimized in this SU project by the design calling for 24 fabric duct runs per floor. The duct runs use a combination of non-vented lengths distributing air to vented lengths that incorporate a permeability and linear orifice design factory engineered specifically for the project.

While a conventional overhead system typically supplies 55°F and cools from top to bottom, this UFAD system supplies 65°F and uses air displacement to cool the bottom 5′ of the facility’s high areas. A LEED analysis found that the UFAD would save the university approximately 32% in operational energy costs and a total energy savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the UFAD life cycle versus a conventional overhead system.

Meanwhile, the raised floor was also specified because the McGoldrick addition houses a vast amount of electronics. The raised floors were the desired method to hide the cabling associated with the in-house computers as well as a high definition video studio, 11 multimedia editing stations, and video monitors. The space reconfigurations and serviceability expected in such a media rich space can be accomplished with the moveable raised floor’s panels.

Beyond Heating And Cooling

David Brugman, assistant director of utilities and sustainability at SU, tracks energy usage campus wide. Speaking on the performance of Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons to date, he shares, “We [have been] able to measure a significant reduction in both absolute and normalized electricity use. We reduced total annual electricity use by 14% despite a 26% increase in building area. When normalized for building area, we achieved an impressive 36% reduction in energy use per building area.”

As part of the underfloor air distribution system, a smoke test was performed to make sure the airflow was traveling the correct direction and throw. (Photo: DuctSox Corp.)
As part of the underfloor air distribution system, a smoke test was performed to make sure the airflow was traveling the correct direction and throw. (Photo: DuctSox Corp.)

He continues, “Key to the savings were improvements to lighting efficiency and controls, and optimization of the HVAC system. In addition, a key feature of the addition was the installation of a large rain garden/natural drainage system that reduces the amount of runoff that goes into the sewer system.”

Other strategies employed in this project—geared toward reducing energy use and water consumption—include: water efficient toilets and faucets; water efficient irrigation system and native, drought tolerant plants; a water feature that uses rain water collected from the roof; light fixtures controlled by occupancy sensors and daylight levels; reflective roof covering reduces heat from the sun into the building; east window wall admits daylight deep into the library while the ceramic frit pattern reduces heat gain and glare; and skylights bring in daylight.

Keeping Green Going

The city of Seattle is known for its sustainability efforts, and SU reflects its surroundings in that regard. In 2011, the President’s Committee for Sustainability (PCS) was convened in response to the school being a signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The charter of the PCS is twofold: to implement the SU Climate Action Plan and to as a means of integrating sustainability initiatives across the university community. The 25 member committee includes faculty, staff, and students from all areas of campus (including De Bruhl).

The double helix staircase, part of the existing Lemieux Library was preserved in this project. (Photo: Chris Joseph Taylor/Seattle University.)
The double helix staircase, part of the existing Lemieux Library was preserved in this project. (Photo: Chris Joseph Taylor/Seattle University.)

Speaking on the university’s approach to energy efficiency and conservation strategies, Brugman says, “We follow the energy savings hierarchy of: reduce demand, increase efficiency, and green the source. Seattle University uses about 30% less energy than that of our peer institutions—those of similar size in similar climate zones.”

To reduce demand, he explains, “Our most important strategy is focusing on better management of existing building systems via a centralized management system. This allows us to optimize the performance and scheduling of equipment in order to only use energy when needed.”

Upon its completion, the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons was tied into the university’s existing energy management system. Says Brugman, “That system is mainly used to control and monitor HVAC systems, but it also has the capacity for centralized lighting control.”

When looking to increase efficiency on the SU campus, Brugman explains, “We strive to update older lighting and HVAC equipment with high efficiency products. Examples of this include ultra high efficiency condensing gas boilers and low wattage LED lighting.”

He adds, “When practical, we also look for ways to use greener sources of energy. For example, we recently converted a large heating system from district steam to on-site natural gas boilers, resulting in a significant reduction in CO2 emissions per delivered unit of energy. We also have several solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on campus.”

Central Space

Nearly three years in service, Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons represents significant investments in technology and modern approaches to learning and scholarship at SU. While furthering the university’s Climate Action Plan, the building serves the primary goal of learning and research by not only providing collaborative spaces but also opportunities for quiet contemplation in reading areas, designated quiet rooms, and gardens. Throughout the facility, there is an array of artwork by artists of international reputation, including Henri Matisse.

Open spaces for studying complement the private areas available in the facility. (Photo: Doug Scott/Seattle University.)
Open spaces for studying complement the private areas available in the facility. (Photo: Doug Scott/Seattle University.)

With its centrally located plaza, a rain garden and a striking façade, the facility created a new campus square by its proximity to the student center and the pavilion. Students and all stakeholders were united in their expectations that the renovated Lemieux Library and the new McGoldrick Learning Commons would be built and operated green. Going for LEED Gold certification involved reusing the existing building and some furnishings; operation of energy efficient mechanical systems and lighting; daylight harvesting; glass curtainwalls with special frit and UV coatings; low emitting materials and furnishings; and capturing 100% of the facility’s storm water runoff for use in water features and the landscape.

With so many resources available at the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, its role as the center of research and study has increased significantly. It is common practice for the SU community to spend time not only inside the facility, but also outside. The site itself has become a town square for the campus.

This article was based on interviews with Brugman and De Bruhl.