Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Today: New Rawls Building LEEDing The Way

March 7, 2012

Facility was designed and built to achieve high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.

Thompson and Gaston Halls were wiped from Texas Tech's campus in 2009.

And yet, in a strange paradox, they remain.

That's because 1,600 tons of the brick, concrete and masonry from the original buildings were crushed and reused as fill to re-level the site where the new Rawls College of Business Building stands today.

That was just one of many recycling steps that architects and designers took to create a new facility that would meet LEED certification, and one of many points of pride for the project, said Paul LaBrant, a registered interior designer and LEED-accredited professional at Parkhill, Smith & Cooper who oversaw the certification process.

 "One of things I'm most proud of is the level of attention paid to the demolition of Thompson and Gaston Halls," LaBrant said. "We saved 90 percent of the construction waste from going into a landfill. That was just huge. The contractor worked with local organizations and nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity and Catholic Family Services, that accepted many of the fixtures, some of the furniture and the hardware from the buildings. About 1,800 tons of the original buildings' fixtures and hardware were either recycled this way or salvaged."

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, gives a framework for practical and measurable green building design to building owners and operators, according the U.S. Green Building Council.

For more on the new building visit the grand-opening website.

LEED certification gives independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built to achieve high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, states the council's website. The key areas include sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

About 9 billion square feet of building space are ranked currently by the rating systems, and 1.6 million feet certifying per day around the world, the site stated.

LaBrant said the building currently should rate a strong silver rating, though designers are waiting to find out if it will receive gold. The new Business Administration Building is the first LEED-certified building on campus.

A Green Environment

Architects and designers began sharing ways to create a sustainable, green environment with people at Texas Tech as planning began in earnest, he said. Overall, the building saves 20 percent of energy and 23 percent of energy costs as well as 47 percent of water usage for a like-sized building not built to LEED standards.

"We found unilateral support throughout the project, specifically from the university's Facilities Planning & Construction and the design team," he said. "We were pretty heavily pursuing energy efficiency and reduction of potable water use. We really looked at storm water, and created the water retention basins because storm water runoff is a huge issue on campus."

Allen McInness, dean of the Rawls College of business, said it made sense to build a green building.

"There are only a few LEED-certified buildings in Lubbock," he said. "We wanted to step up to the challenge of LEED certification to teach our students concern for the environment is important. We incorporated environmental factors that would serve the most benefit to the college and save money for years to come."

To save transportation energy, supplies for the building came from a 500-mile-radius. Windows block 40 to 60 percent of the sun to conserve energy. Drought-tolerant landscaping, waterless urinals and low-flow toilets save water. And designers used recycled materials in floors and countertops.

 Throughout the building, the opportunity to recycle plastic, paper and aluminum is available at nearly every turn.

"Recycling is happening all over this building," McInnes said. "Our new generation of business leaders will be trained in a facility that shows concern for the environment."

In addition, McInnes said staff will spend the next six months to a year learning how to best utilize the new technology in the new building to save the most energy and water.

The Importance of Air Quality

Even inside, air quality performance was a major concern, LaBrant said. At the new tobacco-free facility, smoking isn't allowed within 25 feet of any door or air intake for the building. But not only that, entrances feature metal grates to capture dust and dirt, thereby increasing the building's air quality and reducing the amount of energy and chemicals it takes to keep it clean.

"We were also very concerned with indoor air quality and how you experience a building," LaBrant said. "Case in point, the material for all wood products in the building are urea-formaldehyde free, which has been found to be an irritant for asthma. This included all the doors, windows, cabinets, wood trim and wainscoting, the wood backing in the walls and the majority of the furniture. Studies have shown there's less absenteeism in LEED buildings because of the higher quality of indoor air."

Parking lots and roofs went green in the project as well, he said. Bike trails abound. Light concrete pavement reflects heat instead of trapping it, just like light-colored roofing material. And special parking spaces exist for low-emission car owners and carpoolers.

"The whole LEED aspect is to save energy and be a better steward," LaBrant said. "I like to look at many of the LEED credits as benefits to the users."

Michael Molina, vice chancellor of Texas Tech University System Facilities Planning & Construction said the new business building has set a precedent on campus that will be followed in the future.

"This is our spearhead project into the LEED initiative," Molina said.  "As we move forward with new projects, all will be held to a LEED-certified minimum standard. This was the first kickoff of that, which was amazing. The design team provided outstanding performance and kept us on track.  We will not only reduce our carbon footprint, but also reduce operating expenses. This strategy creates a benchmark for our future campus planning."

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