New CU dorm, Williams Village North, is given the LEEDS platinum certification. WVN is a sustainable living building that was completed last summer for the Fall 2011 semester. (CU Independent/Amy Leder)
New CU dorm, Williams Village North, is given the LEEDS platinum certification. WVN is a sustainable living building that was completed last summer for the Fall 2011 semester. (CU Independent/Amy Leder)

CU residence hall goes platinum

CU’s reputation as an environmentally conscious institution is being furthered by the addition of sustainable student housing.

Williams Village North has recently received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum ranking from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). The new residence hall is the largest building in the US to achieve this ranking, the highest designation that a building can acquire.

New CU dorm, Williams Village North, is given the LEEDS platinum certification. WVN is a sustainable living building that was completed last summer for the Fall 2011 semester. (CU Independent/Amy Leder)

LEED certification recognizes green building practices in design, construction, operations and maintenance. Developed by the USGBC in 2000, it is an internationally recognized system that encourages sustainable practices for better environmental health.

Moe Tabrizi, director of campus sustainability, focused on the pragmatic aspects of LEED certification to ensure that the building achieved platinum ranking.

“There are eight LEED gold certified buildings on the campus, and they are saving energy and water in the range of 25 to 35 percent,” Tabrizi said. “Because this is a residence hall and students are going to be living there all the time, we wanted to raise the bar and really focus on LEED platinum.”

The hall has a number of features that contributed to its platinum rating, Tabrizi said. It gets 12.5 percent of its energy from on-site solar panels, the landscaping is composed of native Colorado plants that require almost no watering, and the building is designed to efficiently use natural daylight whenever possible.

Tabrizi said that the building is 38 percent more energy efficient than other recently designed and constructed code-compliant buildings. There is also a switch in each room that allows students to completely turn off electricity to all non-essential circuits in the room.

“That’s really the part of LEED that excites me,” Tabrizi said. “When you get those kinds of results you get energy conservation, money saved, student tuition and fees saved, and so forth. Essentially we have designed a very comfortable building that is also extremely energy and water efficient.”

Curt Huetson, director of facilities planning and operations for Housing and Dining Services, led a project team of about 30 people that designed the building. Huetson said that Williams Village North was marketed as a building with sustainable features, and that many students chose to live there for this reason.

“One of the things that we’ve found is that the folks out there are very willing to participate, to ride bicycles and such,” Huetson said. “We actually met the campus standard for bike racks, but we still need more.”

Williams Village North offers two Residential Academic Programs (RAPs) that focus on environmental concerns: Sustainable by Design and Social Entrepreneurship for Equitable Development and Sustainability.

Melissa Woodring, an 18-year-old freshman open-option major, said that living in the Sustainable by Design RAP has motivated her to become more involved in promoting green efforts.

“I love living in this building,” Woodring said. “The RAP is all about sustainability, so you learn about how design can affect the environment. We’re trying to get a garden in here as well, which will be set up by next year.”

Genevieve Dodd, 18-year-old freshman sociology major, said that living in Williams Village North has helped her be more conscious of her energy use.

“It’s really easy to use all the energy saving features in the building, so there is no point not to,” Dodd said. “I think I’ll probably be more conscious of my energy use even when I don’t live here in the future.”

To find more information about CU’s sustainability efforts, click here.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Hadley Vandiver at Hadley.vandiver@colorado.edu.

About Hadley Vandiver

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