When UF budgeted the $18.9 million for Newell Hall renovations, it penned in sustainability expenses.
The university’s eco-friendly efforts were realized Aug. 21 when the 24/7 study center received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold-level certification, said Dustin Stephany, UF’s sustainable building coordinator. The remodeled building opened in April after nearly two years of renovations, according to Alligator archives.
LEED is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that audits all UF construction projects, Stephany said. The company evaluates the building process from design to construction based on metrics including energy savings, water efficiency and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
Gold level is LEED’s second best accreditation, behind platinum. Stephany said UF officials decided they wouldn’t pursue the top level.
“When we start off, we always strive for platinum, but we don’t make it a requirement,” he said. “It has additional costs.”
Stephany said he estimates meeting the requirements for a gold level accreditation increased the total project cost by three percent. He’s unsure how much it would’ve increased if UF had chased after platinum or if it would’ve been possible at all.
Some of Newell’s sustainable efforts that led to the accreditation include wastewater going into a treatment facility and being reused for landscaping and not adding parking spaces.
The building has about 92 percent direct sight to the outdoors through windows, which improves the experience for students inside the building. UF also used regional materials and recycled content bought within 500 miles for more than 30 percent of the building.
Some reasons Newell did not get platinum include not agreeing to use renewable energy in building operations for the next two years and not doing brownfield redevelopment, which involves removing a hazardous substance from a construction site.
UF could not remove the hazardous substance because it was never present at the construction site, Stephany said.
“The old school way of thinking is, ‘It’s a crappy building. Let’s tear it down,’ but what the project manager and the team did here is quite an accomplishment since they got the third oldest building on campus up to new technology standards,” Stephany said.
Michelle Stein, a UF political science junior, said she loves the environment and is content with the gold accreditation, instead of the platinum.
“Money’s complicated,” the 20-year-old said. “I guess it can’t always be 100 percent.”
Praveen Varanasi, a UF alumnus who graduated with degrees in economics, political science and sustainability studies, said the building’s natural light and plants alongside the entrance show how UF worked to make the building more environmentally friendly.
“I really like the feng shui, and I agree with the psychology of sustainability,” the 21-year-old said.