By Advanced Buildings Intern Charlotte Jolly

If we think of advanced buildings, we might think of rare, high-tech, progressive and expensive buildings in big cities, because that is the connotation that “advanced” has with many people. If we look, however, at what parts go into IU’s very own advanced buildings, you may wonder why these principles are not automatically applied to every building project.

IU’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan calls for new major ($5 million or more) construction projects to strive for LEED gold certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an international standard used for rating green buildings. There are credit categories (Location/Transportation, Water, Sustainable Sites, Energy, Materials, Indoor Environment Quality, Innovation, and Regional Priority) that determine the point levels: 40-49 Certified, 50-59 Silver, 60-69 Gold, 80+ Platinum. IU now has 17 LEED certified projects across its state campuses, with 10 on the Bloomington campus alone. As most students are probably aware, IU is in a heavy construction period. There are currently 14 LEED projects in progress at IUB. A full list of certified projects can be found on the Office of Sustainability’s website under Green Building. 

So what makes these buildings different? They have to meet many standards in the above mentioned categories during construction and future building performance. This means that LEED buildings use less water and energy (42% total campus greenhouse gas emissions reduction since 2010), source materials locally, have better indoor air quality that prevents sick building syndrome, encourage the use of bicycles, battery-powerd cars, or public transportation, send less construction waste to the landfill (62% average diversion rate from landfill of construction projects in the last three years), and aim for better comfort controls to the inhabitants. 

Why are these buildings exceptional and not the norm? Many of the principles applied in LEED certified buildings are about efficiency and not necessarily high-tech equipment. It is about getting the people who know the various building systems involved as soon as possible. Sometimes these ideas are not applied because the questions were not raised or asked to enough people working on a project. While in a construction meeting for the new Marching Hundred Hall, better management of stormwater was decided upon because the LEED checklist forced the question to be raised and a contractor knew of a technique that would work. Projects may decide against LEED because of its costly registration and documentation reviews. A building can of course apply these principles without going through the LEED certification process, but a checklist can help make sure in large projects that sustainability is being carried out throughout the various systems. 

LEED has been used to rate all sizes of construction projects. When companies, institutions, or universities like IU put their name behind these kind of projects, they become more mainstream. 

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