U. of I. business instructional facility achieves top 'green' standard

December 08, 2009

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The state-of-the-art Business Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois has earned the world's highest honor for sustainable, environmentally friendly construction and design.

The interior of Business Instructional Facility features passive solar artrium. | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

The year-old building is the first business facility at a public university anywhere in the world to earn platinum certification through LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a U.S. Green Building Council rating system that has become the recognized standard for measuring sustainability in construction.

More than 14,000 buildings have been certified though the council's four-tiered scale since the nonprofit coalition of building industry leaders began the program a decade ago, but fewer than 300 buildings worldwide have achieved the top LEED standard.

"It was no mistake the College of Business took action to build the first 'green' building on our campus," said Larry DeBrock, the dean of the College of Business. "The LEED Platinum designation reflects the importance of social and professional responsibility to our students, staff, faculty, friends, and alumni. We are proud of our continuing efforts to push the college and the campus to be leaders in a sustainable world for everyone."

The $60 million-plus facility, which opened in August 2008, is among a dozen platinum-certified projects at any university, and is the first at any university or college in Illinois, where only 14 other buildings have been certified platinum.

Though LEED standards are now synonymous with sustainable design, the green council's efforts to promote earth-friendly construction were still in their infancy when planning for the building began in 2003, said Avijit Ghosh, who was the dean of the College of Business when the project took root.

"We simply wanted the design and construction of this building to reflect the values of social and professional responsibilities that we teach our students," said Ghosh, now the university's vice president for technology and economic development. "I am delighted that the Green Building Council has acknowledged this effort with their highest recognition."

The facility was designed to ease the mounting load on the environment, with energy-saving features that include solar panels to help power the building, roof plantings that provide insulation and reduce water runoff, and a unique, energy-efficient heating and cooling system. A towering atrium maximizes natural light.

Combined, the measures could trim energy use by nearly 50 percent, officials estimate, cutting utility costs by up to $300,000 a year compared with traditional classroom buildings on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

"Environmentally sustainable construction is healthy, energy efficient and consistent with the missions and values of the U. of I. as a public research university," said Stanley O. Ikenberry, who will become interim university president Jan. 1. "This will be the green standard by which we measure all future building construction and renovation on our three campuses."

The LEED system awards points according to a strict set of standards in a half-dozen categories, including energy and water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design.

With 18 high-tech classrooms, counseling and career services, a 300-seat auditorium and a laboratory that simulates real-time market trading, the facility is the first "green" building in the university's 142-year history.

Cesar Pelli, a U. of I. graduate who was named one of the nation's 10 most influential architects by the American Institute of Architects, designed the four-story, 160,000-square-foot facility.

"LEED platinum certification is more than a culminating acknowledgement of the university's exceptional environmental stewardship," said Craig G. Copeland, a senior associate with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. "It is a responsibility to students, faculty and alumni at the College of Business to continue leading in the study, teaching and practice of sustainable business."
-end-
The building was funded through a mortgage secured by the College of Business and gifts from alumni and corporate partners. No state money was used for construction.

The U. of I. College of Business is home to the nation's 13th ranked undergraduate business program in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings. Business Week rated the college's sustainability program best in the nation.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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