BURLINGTON — The University of Vermont’s Aiken Center has earned a LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, an award that indicates the building has met the council’s highest environmental efficiency standard.
The Aiken Center, which is now one of the five LEED platinum certified buildings in the state, houses the university’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.
UVM President Tom Sullivan said in remarks at a press conference on Monday that the building’s certification is indicative of the university’s commitment to lead the country in environmental conservation and innovation.
The university’s facilities and infrastructure, however, are not as important as the faculty, students and staff who occupy them, Sullivan said.
“Inside this wonderful building is really the gem,” Sullivan said.
Jon Erickson, interim dean of the Rubenstein School, said while the $13 million renovation project is complete, the work is not done.
“Now Aiken is a living lab, engaging our students, staff and faculty in research and education on building performance, storm and wastewater treatment, and our workplace behavior,” Erickson said.
The building includes energy reduction renovations, such as efficient window glazing, wastewater recycling and treatment systems, locally sourced building materials, such as 27,000 board feet of wood paneling from Jericho, and other green design features.
Scattered across the building’s roof are 4-inch deep trays filled with perennial plants that collect rainwater.
The building’s “green roof” captures about 25 percent to 50 percent of the building’s water runoff, said Gary Hawley, research associate at the Rubenstein School.
The water then runs into “tipping buckets” located inside the building, Hawley said. Students analyze the water’s content for phosphorous, nutrient composition and acidity levels, for example.
This is the university’s only green roof, but the system could be expanded to the university’s other flat-roofed buildings, Hawley said.
The building scored five out of five in the certification’s water-efficiency category. An “EcoMachine,” a wastewater treatment system that models natural wetlands, recycles the building’s wastewater. When fully operational, the system reduces the buildings water usage by two-thirds.
The 18-month renovation project, completed in January of last year, was funded by a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and more than $4 million in private contributions.
In 2004, UVM adopted a green building policy that states all new construction and renovations must achieve a LEED certification of silver or greater.