On Oct. 9, the new NIEHS warehouse was certified as LEED Platinum, which is the highest-level recognition for overall sustainability. The facility is the first government-owned building within the Department of Health and Human Services to earn the rating.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, awarded by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), is the most widely recognized system for evaluating overall sustainability.
The warehouse, which been recognized by other groups as well, lived up to its name as the NIEHS Net Zero Energy (NZE) Warehouse by generating 38 percent more energy than it used during the first year of occupancy.
More precious than gold
The design-build contract required LEED Gold, yet NIEHS and the National Institutes of Health Office of Research Facilities (ORF) partnered with the designers and builders to aim for Platinum certification. This meant using healthy and sustainable design, along with green construction practices, such as incorporating recycled material, using rapidly renewable and local materials, optimizing energy and water conservation, and protecting wildlife habitat.
Other actions, listed below, show the breadth of the institute’s commitment to sustainability.
- Throughout the project, the team limited construction waste, successfully diverting 101 tons — 76 percent of all waste — from landfills to local recycling.
- All wood used was responsibly sourced and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
- To improve indoor air quality, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were limited. Adhesives, sealants, paints, and coatings used inside the building were certified as no-VOC or low-VOC.
- The warehouse area was designed with double height racks to maximize use of space, thereby allowing addition of Computer Life-cycle Work and Storage Rooms.
- To ensure the building systems were operating as designed, ORF performed enhanced commissioning, measurement, and verification.
- To earn additional LEED credits, the existing shuttle service was expanded to transport employees to and from Building 110, supporting staff who use public transportation.
- Commitment to sustainable education was demonstrated by installing an informational panel in the building entrance to highlight key features.
- Employees were educated about the healthy and green features of the building via tours and the NIEHS intranet, including a virtual tour, photographs, and other building-related information.
- Finally, to make sure the building remained sustainable, all occupants were trained to use sustainable practices before moving in.
A sum of excellence
LEED Certification Levels are points-based. Recognition as LEED Certified requires earning 40-49 points. Silver requires 50-59, Gold requires 60-79, and Platinum requires 80 or more points. The NZE Warehouse received an amazing 85 total credits in the categories shown below.
- Sustainable sites — 18 of 26 points.
- Water efficiency — 8 of 10.
- Energy and atmosphere — 31 of 35.
- Materials and resources — 7 of 14.
- Indoor environmental quality — 12 of 15.
- Innovation in design — 5 of 6.
- Regional priority credits — 4 of 4 points.
(Debi Del Corral is team lead in the NIEHS Office of Management. Chris Long is the NIEHS Executive Officer and leads the Office of Management.)