University Commons: Not Just Green, But LEED Certified

Carlow University’s University Commons is the first LEED certified building on campus.

University Communications For Immediate Release
Drew Wilson, Director, Media Relations September 15, 2015
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First Building on Campus to Be LEED Certified; President Mellon Promises It Won’t Be the Last

Pittsburgh, Pa. – While dedicating the first LEED-certified building in Carlow University’s history, Carlow’s president, Suzanne K. Mellon, PhD, made a promise to those assembled for the ribbon-cutting today.

“The University Commons will be the first – but not the last – LEED certified building on our campus,” she said during her remarks.  “Our new building features sustainable and innovative site design, improved indoor air quality, and efficiency in energy and water consumption.”

Ensuring that the University Commons would be sustainable and energy efficient was important from the planning stages.  Although the inside and much of the outside of the building looks brand new, Carlow made a purposeful decision to renovate and repurpose the space that was formerly known as Grace Library to be mindful of issues of sustainability and conservation.

The University Commons has been designed to be environmentally sustainable and has achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) eligible status through improvements to the quality of the site, reductions in water and energy consumption, and use of materials that reduced the impact on the environment while providing a healthy and safe work environment for faculty and students.

One of the most visible – and yet easy to overlook – aspects of Carlow’s sustainability efforts is the curtain wall window system.  The curtain wall uses an advanced window technology called SageGlass to improve energy efficiency, maximize natural daylight and preserve a visual connection to the outdoors. SageGlass, a product of Saint-Gobain, is electronically tintable dynamic glass that tints or clears automatically in response to changing sun conditions.

The University Commons’ curtain wall faces due south, presenting a significant heat gain and sun glare challenge. SageGlass manages the sunlight and heat entering the building, reducing energy consumption while improving people’s comfort and productivity. It controls sunlight and glare without having to use mechanical shades, blinds or other obstructions, maintaining permanent outdoor views throughout the day.

Additional LEED components in the building include:

1.         Sustainable Site Design:  Because the Commons is a renovation of an existing building within the same footprint, Carlow has succeeded in reducing disturbance of landscape and site. In addition, preferred parking spaces are designated for high efficiency vehicles, and public transportation is readily available adjacent to the campus entry.

2.         Energy Efficiency: Energy usage within the University Commons is reduced by 19 percent (relative to previous levels); enhanced refrigerant management practices are in place, as well as the energy efficiency offered by the curtain wall windows.

3.         Water Efficiency: The plumbing fixtures within the Commons were selected to reduce water consumption.

4.         Materials and Resources: To encourage students, faculty, staff, and visitors to embrace recycling, receptacles have been placed throughout the building. In this vein, roughly 75 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills and recycled or reused. Most materials used in construction were manufactured locally, thereby reducing the carbon footprint by eliminating long distance shipping. Ventilation was increased by 30 percent for enhanced indoor air quality. Materials used within the building contain a minimum of 10 percent recycled materials.

5.         Indoor Air Quality: The University Commons is a smoke-free building. The use of low-VOC materials, ductwork covering during construction, and indoor chemical and pollutant source control add to the improved indoor environmental air quality. Individual controls for lighting and thermal systems provide more precise control for rooms and work spaces.

6.         Innovation in Design:  The University Commons engages in a ‘Green Maintenance’ program that recycles waste from the building, uses environmentally safe cleaning products and practices, and employs environmentally safe landscape practices. The building will be used as a teaching tool to educate visitors and students about the importance of sustainable design and its benefits to the health and well-being of occupants.


About Carlow University

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carlow University was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1929. Offering both undergraduate and graduate programs, Carlow University is a comprehensive master’s institution dedicated to learner-centered education at the collegiate levels and at the elementary school level in the Campus School of Carlow University.

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