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March 20, 2012

Research building recognized for green design

One of the core elements of the Saunders Research Building’s design is energy efficiency as exemplified by the building’s “daylight harvesting” systems. The building recently became the first LEED-certified building at the University.

The Saunders Research Building has received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification in recognition of a design that promotes sustainability and the health of its occupants. It’s the first building at the University to receive certification.

“We are very proud that the Saunders Research Building has been recognized for its green design,” says Bradford Berk, CEO of the Medical Center. “This designation is the product of an incredible team of individuals who not only designed and built a building that sets a new standard for sustainability at the University of Rochester, but one that by design will also serve as a model for scientific collaboration and innovation.”

LEED certification—established by the U.S. Green Building Council—is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. The certification process is based on an evaluation of a building’s planning and design, energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, indoor environmental air quality, and construction criteria.

One of the core elements of the building’s design is energy efficiency as exemplified by the building’s “daylight harvesting” systems. The building’s east-west orientation and narrow footprint maximizes exposure to sunlight. The exterior walls of the upper floors are wrapped with windows. Instead of lining the outside walls and blocking sunlight as would be the case in a traditional office building, individual offices are arranged in blocks that run perpendicular to the exterior windows. This creates an open floor plan which—along with glass-walled offices, meeting rooms, and common spaces—brings more natural light into the interior of the building. The building is equipped with sensors that control lights based on a room’s occupancy and measure the amount of daylight in a room and adjust lighting levels accordingly.

These and other energy-saving systems and design elements—such as high efficiency HVAC systems, exhaust heat recovery systems, and a roof that reflects heat—produce an estimated 18 percent reduction in utility costs. The features also qualified the building to participate in New York State Energy Research and Development Authority programs for energy conservation.

“The savings that we have been able to obtain through energy efficiency demonstrates that not only is sustainable design the right thing to do, but there is also a significant return on initial investment,” says Mary Ockenden, associate vice president for space planning at the Medical Center. “We spent about $900,000, or 1.5 percent of the project budget on upfront energy efficiency components with an average payback period of six years.”

Additional green features of the building include:

  • Water usage is reduced by 43 percent through the use of low-flow restrooms, showers, sinks, and urinals;
  • Exterior landscaping consists of native and adaptive plants, which reduces water use by 50 percent;
  • A rain garden and “porous pavement” parking lot help capture and filter storm water and reduce runoff;
  • More than 700 tons of construction waste was diverted, a 56 percent reduction;
  • 18 percent of the building is composed of recycled construction materials, and 23 percent of the material came from local sources;
  • 95 percent of the wood in the building came from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests;
  • All paints, adhesives, sealants, carpets, and plywood used in the project use low-emitting/low-volatile organic compounds resulting in improved indoor air quality.

The building, which opened in April 2011, is home to the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine and the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, independent research programs in cancer, neurological disorders, pediatrics, emergency medicine, cardiovascular disease; and other programs that support clinical research. It is one of the first new buildings in the nation dedicated to clinical and translational research and serves as the hub of a statewide network of clinical researchers. More than 500 faculty, staff, and students currently work in the building. The building’s construction was made possible with $50 million in capital support from the State of New York.

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