Sustainability: More Than Just Skin Deep

10/03/2012 |

A rainscreen facade is just one facet helping this facility go for LEED Gold

The Nassau Community College (NCC) Life Sciences Building in Long Island, NY, has set out to become the campus’s first LEED-certified facility and represents NCC’s initial efforts toward completing a campus-wide sustainability mission.

The three-story, 74,000-square-foot academic building houses the nursing and chemistry departments and was designed and constructed to attain LEED Gold certification.

“Nassau County actually set a silver standard for its own buildings, but we decided to go for gold because it’s our first,” explains Carol Friedman, assistant vice president for NCC design and construction. ”Even more important for us were the energy and utility savings.”

Beginning with the exterior cladding made of recycled copper panels, the building incorporates an energy-saving rainscreen facade system. The skin is extremely watertight and successfully maintains temperature inside. Before deciding on copper, wood and clay tile were also considered.


Nassau cC life sciences Building
New Construction

Owner: Nassau Community College (submitter)

Designer: Cannon Design

Contractor: Aurora General Contracting

Construction Manager: Jacobs Project Management

“The copper panels are one of the most unique parts of the building. I fell in love with the material. The texture and coloring is really nice,” Friedman says. “The recycled material also helped us earn some LEED points. It’s great when you have something beautiful and environmentally friendly.”

Another certification strategy involves stormwater recycling and special landscape species that eliminate the need for outside water for irrigation. The building employs daytime lighting sensors, energy-efficient HVAC components, and a building management system to significantly reduce energy load. Equipped wirelessly throughout, the facility is also the college’s first to operate completely with VOIP technology.

Offering six large general classrooms and six modern chemistry laboratories, the building also features six nursing skills training rooms with a computerized simulation lab. Additionally, it includes two large computer labs and quiet group study spaces.

Labs and lecture classrooms are situated along the outer perimeter, displaying function and activity while also providing sunlit interior corridors.

“More than half of our campus was 1970s construction – cold concrete and very dark spaces. We wanted to make a new face for the college going forward, so it was important that the classrooms were bright and well-lit,” Friedman explains. “Classrooms receive a lot of natural light and we installed lighting that is sensitive to daylight. The spaces are very attractive, and the views are beautiful.”

A curtainwall system composed of translucent glass panes provides more transparency and natural light while also allowing varying degrees of privacy in the offices on higher floors.

The exterior also features ceramic tile panels and glass and aluminum storefronts to mark entrances. Multiple entry points welcome students from the north and south, connecting the building with the larger campus community.

Limiting disruption during the project was not easy because the site is immediately adjacent to the busiest bus loop on campus.

“We also have 22,000 students, so even though Nassau is a two-year community college, we’re about the size of a university,” says Friedman. “If we establish a traffic pattern during construction, then 10 or 12 months later, half our student body will be unfamiliar with it. It was a constant battle.”

Another challenge involved connecting to the aged high-temperature hot water infrastructure, which wound up causing a lot of headaches and costing over $1 million in change orders.

“We were surprised at what condition it was in and it wasn’t even located where it was supposed to be,” Friedman explains. “I would have investigated that system further instead of relying on as-built drawings or where we think things might be. We wasted significant time and lost a lot of money trying to tie into it.”

To make operations and maintenance smoother, polished concrete flooring was chosen for common spaces, which require just a buffing machine, soap, and water. Lab floors are rubber instead of tile and need only waxing and a wet mop.

Automated building management allows operators at the college’s plant to control nearly every system within the facility.

Since security is stretched thin over the 225-acre campus, an advanced security system was installed to allow staff to monitor when a lab is opened and who enters, reducing their need to tour grounds continuously.

The Life Sciences Building shows there’s more than just one way to skin a sustainability mission.


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