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Athenaeum Receives Gold LEED Certification

Release date: October 15, 2010

Goucher College's new flagship building, the Athenaeum, has been awarded Gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, the national recognized standard for measuring a building's environmental sustainability.

The LEED green building-rating system — developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, DC-based, nonprofit coalition of building industry leaders — is designed to promote design and construction practices that reduce the negative environmental impacts of buildings and improve occupant health and well-being.

The LEED rating system offers four certification levels for new construction — Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum — that correspond to the number of credits accrued in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

LEED certification of buildings is difficult to achieve because the projects must meet or exceed myriad requirements. Only one other higher educational institution in Maryland has been awarded Gold LEED status.

"The Athenaeum's Gold LEED certification is an important reflection of Goucher's far-reaching campaign to promote sustainability — not just through our facilities, but also through our academic programs, our campus-wide environmental policies, and our co-curricular activities," said Goucher College President Sanford J. Ungar. "This is a major accomplishment, the result of much hard work by many people.  We are proud to receive this recognition."

Opened in September 2009, the Athenaeum is the new flagship of Goucher's campus, weaving together the various threads of life at the college in one signature building — a physical centerpiece for the campus that also will be the figurative heart of the academic community.

The 103,000-square-foot building is open 24 hours a day and features a new, technologically superior library; a spacious open forum for performances, public discussions, and other events; a café, art gallery; a center for community service and multicultural affairs programming; and spaces for exercise, conversation, and quiet reflection and relaxation.

Goucher College, in collaboration with the architecture firm RMJM, approached every aspect of the Athenaeum project with an eye toward sustainable design strategies.

The Athenaeum employs the following energy-saving design features:

• The exterior of the library is constructed using high-performance glass, allowing daylight in and providing expansive views while reducing the amount of heat gain in the building.

• Green roofs are employed in two places to further reduce heat gain and alleviate stormwater runoff.

• Recycled building materials were used throughout the building, including construction materials, carpeting, and previously used furniture.

• Additionally, 50 percent of all construction debris was recycled.

• Low volatile organic compound (VOC) adhesives and sealants were used throughout the building's interior.

• LED and fluorescent lighting are used inside the building to reduce electricity use.

• HVAC and lighting are controlled by system zoning to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

• Energy conservation features include solar water heating, light-activated motorized window shades, insulated glass, motion sensors for lighting, displacement ventilation, and high-efficient mechanical systems.

• Water conservation features include dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, water-efficient landscaping, and motion-activated faucets.

• Additionally, a rain garden planted with shrubs, trees, and herbaceous vegetation helps control the stormwater runoff and acts as a natural filter system against pollutants.

• Bike racks, showers, and changing areas, as well as nearby access to bus routes, facilitate the use of alternative modes of transportation.

• Existing wetlands and forests surrounding the Athenaeum were conserved during the building's construction and delivery.

The Athenaeum was an integral part of the Strategic Plan that Goucher College adopted in 2002. Construction on the building began in May 2007, with the final cost totaling $48 million.

The building is Goucher's first facility to receive LEED certification, but the college passed a policy in 2009 that ensures all new buildings or major renovations to existing buildings are planned with the goal of achieving at least a Silver rating according to the US. Green Building Council's LEED Green-Building Rating System.

"I think it's a great step Goucher is taking to build and design buildings that utilize sustainable practices, and the Gold LEED status should certainly be celebrated," said Hadley Couraud, class of 2013. "We need to build on this achievement to create more initiatives that move the campus to become an ever-increasing sustainable community."