Bren Hall Earns Double Platinum for Sustainability

Bren Hall Becomes First Building to Earn “Double Platinum” for Sustainability

Bren Hall, home to the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara, becomes the first structure to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest sustainability rating as both a new-construction project and an existing building.

Santa Barbara, Calif. –  Bren Hall, which houses the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara, has become the nation’s first building to earn two LEED®  Platinum certifications, the highest sustainability rating possible, from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Bren Hall seen from Marine Research InstituteOn August 4, 2009, Bren Hall was recertified at the Platinum level for Existing Buildings—Operations & Maintenance (LEED EB O&M).

The recertification comes seven years after Bren Hall opened its doors in 2002 as the greenest laboratory facility in the nation and the first to receive Platinum certification for New Construction from the USGBC’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, which has since become the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of the world’s greenest, most energy-efficient and high-performing buildings.

“This is tremendous news,” said Bren School Acting Dean John Melack. “It was a big achievement to construct Bren Hall as the first LEED Platinum laboratory building in the nation, but that was in some ways an easier task than earning recertification at the Platinum level. As a new building, much of the work is left to the architects and the contractors, but as an existing building, it is up to us, the occupants, to work with staff and university personnel to maintain and operate the building to the highest standards. This new certification demonstrates that we have succeeded in that endeavor.”

“I am so proud of our Bren School and the hardworking people throughout this university who make such an achievement possible,” said UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “I am excited by this recognition, which raises the bar on our already ambitious campus-wide sustainability efforts, and I’m delighted to see that Bren Hall was able to successfully utilize credits earned as part of an innovative LEED pilot program for institutions that will greatly benefit us as other buildings at UCSB are put through the certification process.”

The chancellor was referring to the USGBC Portfolio Program, which is intended to make it easier for universities, government agencies, and other large institutions to apply for LEED certification. The program, in which UCSB is one of only three entities that UCGBC invited to participate initially, may grant LEED credits to groups of buildings that have sustainability strategies in common, such as using recycled water, purchasing green janitorial products, and installing energy-efficient lighting. UCSB has designated 25 building on campus for future LEED certification, and thanks to the Portfolio Program, each will begin the application process with 29 of these shared, “pre-approved” credits.

USGBC awards LEED sustainability credits for everything from construction materials and landscaping to purchasing policies, energy efficiency, air quality, and the health and safety of occupants. The total number of credits determines whether a building receives a rating of “certified” “silver,” “gold,” or, at the top of the scale, “platinum.”

New construction (LEED NC) certification includes credits for many elements that are part of putting up a building, such as siting, materials usage, and management of construction-related waste, as well as credits for resource efficiency and operational elements. Certification for existing buildings (LEED EB) is based on operation and maintenance, occupant health, and financial return of the initial investment in sustainability technology and strategies, so it serves to test the commitment to sustainable operation demonstrated by a building’s occupants.

“Bren Hall is at the forefront of a trend of LEED-certified buildings using LEED EB:O&M to confirm that their original design goals as rewarded by their LEED certifications are being realized,” said Perrin Pellegrin, former UCSB Campus Sustainability Manager and now Senior Strategist at Collaborative Project Consulting. “LEED NC and LEED EB are apples and oranges because they evaluate different elements, but Platinum certification for both shows that the Bren School is leading by example.”

“As the first project to receive LEED Platinum certification as both a new and existing building, Bren Hall demonstrates tremendous green building leadership,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council.  “The urgency of USGBC’s mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further than ever before, and Bren Hall serves as a prime example with just how much we can accomplish.”

The latest LEED certification for Bren Hall was arrived at based on the building’s performance during a three-month “performance period,” when all of the relevant documentation was generated, explained Bren alumnus Jordan Sager (MESM 2009), now LEED program manager at UCSB Physical Facilities. At one point in the process, he said, an energy model was run, which showed that Bren Hall’s energy use is one-third to one-half that of similar buildings of similar function.

No major retrofitting to Bren Hall was undertaken to obtain the Platinum certification, Sager notes, saying that most of the work was “no cost or low cost.” The biggest changes were an upgrade of the already efficient laboratory fume hoods and the purchase of 2 million kilowatt hours of renewable wind and solar energy credits. The building received the maximum amount of credits possible for energy efficiency.

The LEED certification process is a big project that involved many people working over several months. They include:  Jeff Kirby, Mike Best and Connie Fourqurean of the Bren School; Mo Lovegreen and Kelsey Lester of the UCSB Geography Department; David McHale, Mark Peppers, and Kazimir Galijevic of UCSB Physical Facilities; Perrin Pellegrin; and Lindsey Taggart, a Bren School alumna who works for the Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara.

“This is the biggest feeling of satisfaction,” said Sager of the Platinum rating, echoing the thoughts of all those who helped to make it possible.