More companies, colleges and individual Iowans are following environmentally friendly guidelines on new construction projects. Around 33 LEED certified buildings have been completed in the state, while 156 other potential LEED projects are being designed or built.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Architect Kevin Nortmeyer, director of the Iowa Energy Center at Iowa State University, says LEED principles are a measure of how a building can use less energy, water and natural resources. He admits some “green” ideas – such as solar thermal panels – can greatly increase construction costs.
“However, those are the kinds of things that have calculable paybacks,” Nortmeyer said. “Many times, if there’s a utility company in Iowa involved…they have programs or can locate programs for you to achieve rebates and incentives for energy efficiency measures, including the federal incentives that currently exist.”
Nortmeyer says the benefits of green building techniques go beyond eventual cost savings and the impact on the environment. “There’s research that shows students perform better, people are more productive in offices, they’re sick fewer days and so forth if you have a highly-efficient and productive, daylighted environment,” Nortmeyer said. Depending on the amenities, building projects can earn a silver, gold or platinum LEED certification rating from the U.S. Green Buildings Council.
Central College in Pella has three LEED certified buildings. The latest – a 57,000 square foot facility that houses classrooms, offices and conference rooms – landed a platinum certification. Central College Director of Facilities Mike Lubberden says the building includes a heating and cooling system that runs through concrete floors.
“In-floor heating is pretty commonplace, but we’re one of the first to incorporate in-floor radiant cooling with water supplied from our central chilled water plant,” Lubberden said. “We’ve also incorporated daylight harvesting, rain-water capture – we’ve got a green roof on a portion of the facility – and a lot of recycled content in the building materials. We really went after practically all of the credits available within the LEED rating system.”
LEED was first launched in 2000. Iowa had just six LEED certified projects in 2007, compared to 33 today. Nortmeyer and Lubberden were guests on the Iowa Public Radio program “The Exchange.”