Vermeer Science Center, Central College, Pella, IA
Recently renovated and expanded, the 70,000-square-foot Vermeer Science Center (VSC) at Central College is the first LEED™-rated facility in the state of Iowa (achieving a Silver award rating) – the result of Central’s leadership in a number of innovative sustainable design practices. Energy efficiency, low atmospheric emissions, site sensitivity, water savings, and more are realized through the project’s use of variable flow fume hoods and a heat recovery system (laboratory buildings are typically high energy users due to their equipment and ventilation requirements); a solar-powered fountain, water-efficient landscaping, and capture of roof rain run-off; extensive use of natural daylight; and such transportation features as an alternative refueling station and designated parking for vans and carpools. Additionally, the college has contracted for the purchase of wind power, which will provide 335,000 kWh of renewable energy for the building. Unlike most academic institutions, the arrangement of laboratories within the building is based on physical requirements rather than departmental structure.
Project Team: Central College (owner); Holabird & Root LLP (architect, engineer, interiors); Research Facilities Design (lab consultant); and The Weitz Co. (construction manager).
Learn more about this project at (www.central.edu/VSC_Kiosk/vscpage2.html).
Q: Was the Vermeer Science Center initially considered a LEED candidate?
“We became interested in incorporating sustainable design features in 1998 while programming our Weller Center for Business and International Education because we believed it the right thing to do,” recalls Mike Lubberden, LEED-accredited professional and director, Construction & Energy Management, at Central College. “LEED 2.0 was in its pilot phase at that time and we asked ourselves, ‘What would it take to have Central involved?’ Although the building integrates several innovative sustainable design features and concepts, we felt our stringent schedule wouldn’t allow us the time required to pursue a rating. The building still speaks loudly about who we are, our appreciation for the environment, and our pursuit [in] becoming good stewards of the earth’s natural resources.
“When the next project (Vermeer) surfaced, we weren’t quite ready to make the LEED commitment in programming, although we did incorporate several sustainable concepts in the planning. When we arrived at the Construction Documents phase, we circled the wagons and found that LEED certification was actually a realistic goal at that time. At that point, we got serious about it and began incorporating LEED into each job meeting, assigning levels of responsibility to each member of the design/construction team, including the owner. The pursuit of a LEED rating requires a very integrated team approach, which we incorporated, and everyone looked forward to the meetings and overcoming problems together. We developed a design/construct dream team, and had full support from the top – Central College president, Dr. David Roe.
“When looking forward to future projects, however, we’ll make the LEED commitment early on.”
Q: Do you have advice for your peers on going after LEED certification?
“The most intensive areas for our project lay within the energy credits – building the ASHRAE 90.1 models and defining the recommissioning process that ensures the building will operate to its design intent for its lifetime,” explains Lubberden. “Many buildings start up great, but gradually de-tune themselves over time because: 1) technicians typically are not trained to fully understand the technology and sequences of operation; and 2) there is no process in place to ensure the building operates at peak efficiency for its lifetime. An expensive, but key point within LEED is measurement and verification. We measure our chilled water flows, steam, natural gas, domestic water, and power consumption. We also track boiler/chiller efficiencies, and the power consumed by individual lighting panels. Our building automation will alert us if these values drift from our defined limits. The good thing about the recommissioning process is that it literally holds the owner accountable to fully understand [and] be a part of building technician training, and to ensure a system is in place for educating future technicians and building managers.”
Q: Does the Vermeer Science Center offer Central College other benefits beyond energy/pollution savings and recognition as a good corporate citizen?
“Yes,” says Lubberden, noting how the Central staff and educators are excited about the opportunities this project offers the college to educate both students and the general public in understanding the critical issues of renewable energy and sustainable design. Specifically:
To offer a dynamic, interactive, and visible demonstration of the potential for photovoltaics.
To educate students and the public in the sun’s viability as a future energy source.
To provide students with opportunities to work with renewable energy, electrolyzers, and fuel cells; to conduct research projects around these resources; and to present findings on new technology to others.