The University of North Texas’ newest parking garage has received GOLD LEED certification from theUnited States Green Building Council, signifying that the project met the highest eco-friendly building measures.
Highland Street Garage, which is located on the northwest corner of Welch and West Prairie streets, received the gold certification, based on the materials used, its water-efficient landscape, optimized energy performance and a number of other environmentally-friendly features.
The Green Building Certification Institute, a third-party organization that offers credentialing and certification to sustainable building projects, uses a number of criteria to rate building projects. Some of the criteria include water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design process.
Creating a sustainable environment on campus not only lessens the environmental and economic impact to the university, but it also encourages the UNT community to think differently about their surroundings, said Nicole Cocco,the outreach coordinator for the UNT Office of Sustainability.
“Being in these spaces, a person clearly understands that it's a more functional, productive, and natural environment, and that creates a culture change on campus that will stick with people for a lifetime,” Cocco said. “Sustainability is about so much more than recycling, and all of our LEED buildings effectively communicate that."
Before beginning the project, contractors worked on preventing unnecessary pollution throughout the construction. Once the prerequisite had been completed, construction began. The LEED rating is just another measure UNT is taking to live up to its Mean Green name.
“The program rewards the project for utilizing materials that are extracted, processed and manufactured regionally,” said Cassandra Nash, senior project manager for UNT System Facilities. “The intent is to reduce the environmental impacts resulting from transportation and promote use of materials that are obtainable within 500 miles of the project site.”
The parking garage earned LEED points from using certified wood, which is tracked from the forest all the way to the construction site. The wood-based materials are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council’s Principles and Criteria. The landscape architect also chose specific plants that are native to Texas and are watered by an efficient irrigation system. The system reuses “blown-down” water by storing it in an on-site 26,000 gallon cistern before it is pumped out to water the garage’s landscape.
The parking garage was also architecturally designed to use less energy. Lighting systems and efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning also helped the garage earn a gold rating level.
In 2008, UNT became Texas' first large public university to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging to adhere to more stringent environmental standards and promising to achieve at least LEED Silver certification on new buildings. The UNT Life Science Complex earned Gold LEED certification in 2011. In 2011 UNT became the first university in the nation to earn LEED Platinum certification for a new construction, college football facility, when Apogee Stadium received the designation. The UNT Business Leadership Building also received Gold LEED certification earlier this year.
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