Whitcomb Art Center has been awarded the LEED Gold certification almost a year and a half after it opened.
President Teresa Amott reported the news to the faculty at their monthly faculty meeting on May 7. The process has included efforts and documentation of the design and construction of WAC and how the space is used now by faculty and students.
“We did want to do a building that would really reflect the most current thinking and technology in terms of sustainability,” Associate Professor of Art Mark Holmes said. “So that was a goal all the way along from the very beginning. We realized at some point that our budget would be a limitation.”
The department was included in the design process, and realized that because of budget limitations, it was not really reasonable to try to get the building to LEED Platinum or even Gold level.
“I was surprised we came in LEED Gold. I don’t think anyone really expected that. I was sort of expecting Silver or maybe just LEED certification,” Holmes said.
WAC joins Alumni Hall as the two LEED certified buildings on campus. According to Director for Campus Sustainability Debbie Steinberg, there is one other certfiied building in Galesburg but it is not well advertised. According to the LEED website, it is located at 50 E. Main St.
The LEED certification uses a tally of various points that buildings can receive for their design and use. The Gold level means the building received at least 60 points. Steinberg and Director of Facility Services Scott Maust explained that part of the application was re-submitted with additional explanation after WAC failed to get all the points they expected.
“We thought we had 61 points and then they kind of took two points away from us for something that I guess it wasn’t explained as well as it should have been. So then we re-submitted with a different explanation and then they accepted what we were doing,” Maust said.
Considerations of sustainability have been important from the start. Holmes said that Amott had made sure the Art department knew to consider sustainability when plans for the new building were just being started.
WAC is built on the site of a former lumber yard. Part of the LEED checklist includes the importance of site selection and local and salvaged materials. WAC used lumber from a storage shed previously on the site, as well as reclaimed bricks and wood taken out of Alumni Hall during its renovations.
“[Building a] green building is really full circle and so a lot of it is starting before you even begin to get in the ground. Like having an integrative design team, site assessment. All of those are things you can get points for,” Steinberg said.
Other important factors include the water retention system on the site. Thanks to the inclusion of the stormwater retention area on the south side, none of the water from the roof or site goes into the city’s wastewater system.
The design also includes large facing windows and south facing skylights, to help bring in sunlight but limit the additional heating from the southern exposure during summer months. Energy consumption and water usage were also considered.
Besides the design, the practices of the people inside the building are also important. There are signs inside to remind people to watch their consumption and art professors are supposed to put a disclaimer in their syllabi about it, similar to the Honor Code section.
Still, the people are often the weak part of the link in keeping the building sustainable. Holmes said that students often tend to ignore signs about separating waste.
“I think [future improvement] is more a matter of little by little being more and more incentive to that. It’s also something that I think we try to talk about as teachers, that as artists we do have, like everybody, a responsibility to use things to have as little impact as possible,” Holmes said.
The faculty have adapted some of their teaching to be more sustainable. For instance, Assistant Professor of Art Andrea Ferrigno has reduced the use of solvents in her printmaking classes to the absolute minimum. Holmes estimated that around 85 percent of the waste the building produces is paper or cardboard, which they recycle the best they can. Holmes has also tried to use recycled materials for his sculpture classes, such as styrofoam.
Maust said that sustainability has become a much bigger deal in construction than it was when campus was last getting new major buildings like SMC. Thanks to a Ameren Illinois Act on Energy program rebate, Maust was able to buy 5,000 LED bulbs to replace those currently in use.
High-efficiency air conditioning and insulation are planned for the BETA renovations and the SMC renovations too are being planned with sustainability in mind. However, some of the code requirements for science buildings, like air exchanges to bring in large amounts of outside air to prevent the spread of fumes, makes them hard to meet LEED standards. Still, building codes have also increasingly considered sustainability, according to Maust.
“LEED, when [it] first came out, was a very good idea [and] way of doing things. Since that time, a lot of states, Illinois included, have adopted energy codes, where you gotta do the efficient lighting and water conservation and HVAC system and stuff. There starts to have kinda a second thought that if you’re already having to do all this stuff, is it beneficial to do LEED for what it costs. It’s not cheap,” Maust said.