South Lawn to earn national green building designation.
Image courtesty of the U.Va. Office of the Architect.
The South Lawn Project is a watershed project for the University in many ways, creating a literal bridge between a storied past and thrilling future. Thanks to the concerted efforts of all involved in the project’s design and construction, that future is looking greener every day.
The project will be among the first LEED-certified building efforts at U.Va. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system has become the ultimate benchmark for green building in America, providing a “whole building” approach to sustainability. The system focuses on five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
The South Lawn Project and its focus on sustainability was the precursor to and one of the inspirations for this year’s new requirement from the Board of Visitors that all future
University construction earn this designation.
“The Board is committed to the whole notion of sustainability,” said L.F. Payne, chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. “We think it is really important that the South Lawn Project — the high-profile project that it is — be LEED-certified and show the commitment that the University has to sustainability.”
The project, according to Architect for the University David Neuman, encompasses all aspects of LEED, from external environment and building siting to construction materials and landscape plantings. The design itself is a teaching tool, exhibiting obvious sustainable elements in its water course, green roofs and operable windows.
However, while the LEED system is based on points that relate to a variety of levels rising from certification to silver, gold and platinum ratings, there are more deeply rooted values at work. “From the very beginning, we decided we were not going to ‘buy’ LEED points,” said Adam Daniel, senior associate dean and COO for Arts & Sciences. “We wanted to make sure that it would have a benefit for the program and that it would
actually make sense for what we were trying to accomplish. So everything that we did in that building that has consequences for LEED certification, I can say with confidence, we
really believe in.”
The program benefits for the College are many, and varied, Daniel said. They include the literal connections for those interested in, for example, subjects such as environmental history or politics. And they include the physical advantages afforded by the increase in spaces for informal interaction as well as planned interaction. Finally, he said, the project addresses the desires and concerns of the community. “I think there was a sense pretty early on that this is something that was going to be important to our community. Students, I think, have been most vocal about this.”
The fully integrated nature of the LEED-influenced design delves deeply, and literally, into the land itself. “I think the most significant part of our sustainable site design is the integration of stormwater management into the overall landscape design of the project,” said University landscape architect Mary Hughes, “so that the water that falls on the site gets used or treated on-site in order to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of water released into area streams or sewer systems.”
The environmental focus of the project has called for an increased level of commitment from the entire design team, Neuman said. “Of all the projects I’ve worked on, it is among the handful, literally, that has had this camaraderie and team spirit and sense of ‘we can do better and we can accomplish our goals.’”
One of the team members adds to this team spirit with school spirit. John Ruble, principal, Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners, is a 1969 graduate of the School of Architecture. “For me the joy of the project has been this rallying-around aspect, that there has been such commitment and enthusiasm to do a great thing for the College.”
All involved with the project are acutely aware of its power as a teaching tool for today’s students and generations of students to follow. Signs throughout the project will inform students of the various green elements, and these elements will provide food for thought and study for students from many disciplines across Grounds.
“The project,” Payne said, “has a didactic experience or component that I think Jefferson would be very pleased by.”
Read more about the South Lawn Project.