Behind the Scenes of LEED

Many students walk around campus and see (if not hear) the construction occurring in the large fields along Jordan Avenue and Third Street. As a student, I would have come to the same conclusion as the majority of student the student body: another building (academic or residential) building was going up. However, as a LEED intern responsible for understanding the process of certifying all the new IU buildings to a silver LEED standard, I’m aware that there is so much more than meets the naked eye.

For instance, take the new Jacobs School of Music Faculty Studio building. As the monthly meeting to evaluate the progress of design and construction approaches, I consider how long the previous month felt as a student, but how short the month would have felt in the world of engineers and architects and other environmental consultants. The process to estimate the energy usage in a not-yet-built building, to calculate how much of that energy can be supplied through green energy, to search for the right correspondents at the university to see if the school has enough RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) to purchase the proposed energy, and finally complete the correct paperwork that claims the new LEED building will use a specific percentage of green energy. And this process is just for one LEED credit! Granted, not all LEED credits are incredibly time-intensive, nor do they have to go through three different groups of people, but as a whole, LEED certification is not as straightforward as checking off boxes on a checklist.

The new Jacobs School of Music building will accommodate faculty teaching studios, private practice rooms, classrooms, and offices. But that is far from the architect’s mind. His current agenda includes the how to reduce the heat island effect, and how to create water-efficient landscaping around the building. The contractor is responsible for creating a waste management plans for during construction, and confirming construction materials are sustainable. The university also has its own responsibilities. Approximately half of the LEED accreditation credits are in the design and construction phases, but some of the points fall under the occupancy phases, where IU simply has to pledge there will be sustainable practices in the new building. But nothing is ever that simple. There have been cases where those pledges are not enough. Can a change in wording fix the problem? What can fix the problem? After all, the building is not yet occupied; how can IU prove the occupants will be sustainable? There are no “correct” answers to predict the future, and this is where some of these LEED credits get complicated.

IU has taken all the right measures to certify all their new building up to the silver standards, but if I were not an IUOS intern, I would have never recognized the vast efforts that went to accrediting a LEED building. While I do not suggest everyone at IU read up on the different LEED credits (although I certainly don’t discourage it), it would be great to know that students and faculty were aware of their new surroundings in conjunction with what occurs behind the scenes. Sustainability is a growing phenomena at IU, and green LEED buildings are just another aspect in sustainability that everyone can learn and be familiar with in their very own school.

Written by Mary Liang, LEED Documentation and Evaluation Intern


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