JCCC’s first ‘official’ green building
Energy efficiency. Low-fume paints and sealants. Recycled building materials. Daylight.
All of these forward-thinking building practices were used in the construction of the Olathe Health Education Center (OHEC), the new home for practical nursing, health occupation programs and general education courses.
OHEC is JCCC’s first building to be constructed under the promise of sustainability after President Terry Calaway signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in March 2008.
In it, he pledged to make all new construction follow the dictates of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) designation of a LEED silver building or higher.
“It’s college policy now,” said Jay Antle, executive director of the Center for Sustainability at JCCC.
The USGBC developed LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is an internationally recognized green building certification system.
Points are earned in distinct categories such as water and energy usage, materials used in construction and environmental quality inside the building. On a 100-point scale, OHEC must achieve 50-59 points in order to be certified silver. A gold certification requires 60-79 points and a platinum is 80 points and above.
How did the designers and builders attempt to attain those points?
The flagship of all OHEC’s sustainability practices is the ground-source heat pump. Also called a geothermal system, the pump utilizes 48 wells dug underneath the OHEC parking lot. These wells are 350 feet deep and use the temperature of the earth to heat the building in the winter and cool it in the summer.
Because the water is stored so far underground, it maintains a relatively consistent temperature of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to providing heating and cooling for the building, a geothermal system is also supposed to cost less to maintain than traditional sources of heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Antle said the thermal pump also would result in significantly lower utility bills than a typical heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. The upfront costs – digging the wells, lining them with concrete, filling them with glycol and setting up the handling systems on either side of the building – will be recaptured, he said. How long it will take depends on the costs of traditional heating and cooling materials (such as the cost of electricity) and the efficiency of the new system.
Other LEED points will come from these features:
- Daylight. The building was oriented on the site to capture as much daylight as possible. The lobby features a two-story windowed atrium, and the windows facing the north are large, with six of them on the east side and eight on the west.
- Motion sensors and light detectors. When daylight is no longer strong enough (on rainy days) or gone altogether (at night), a device attached to the light fixtures relays the message to turn on the lights or increase their power, and the light responds automatically. Additional sensors monitor motion in a set area, such as a classroom or hallway. When no motion is detected, the lights automatically turn off. Motion sensors are even at work in the elevator, so lights don’t come on until someone steps over the elevator threshold.
- Native plants and local materials. Outside the building, plants indigenous to Kansas will demand less water. Inside the building, construction materials from Midwestern suppliers meant less energy used in transport.
- Low-fume paints and sealants. “In buildings where these materials are used, fewer people called in sick. So we’re not only creating a greener building, we’re creating a healthier building for workers and for students,” Antle said.
- Recycled building materials and recycling during building. In addition to using materials with post-consumer content, builders also maintained that recycling stream by separating waste during construction. Site superintendent Steve Calfas said workers from JE Dunn, the builder for OHEC, separated cardboard, wood, steel, concrete and masonry so it could be diverted from the landfill and recycled.
- Low-flow fixtures, two hydration stations and even a shower. You’d expect water-saving toilets and a place to fill your water bottle, but the shower might be a surprise. For bicycle commuters who want to park their rides on the bike racks outside, a quick shower before class or work may be a necessity. It’s in the first-floor unisex bathroom.