VCU implements green design strategies at its Rice Center.
Visitors to the Virginia Commonwealth University Inger and Walter Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences’ new education building won’t have to travel very far to learn about sustainable design. The lesson will begin at the front door — literally.
“It’s our flagship project,” says Carl Purdin, VCU assistant director of design services. “We’ve registered the plans with the U.S. Green Building Council with the intent of receiving the platinum rating. When people come out to this facility, they’ll experience firsthand a broad range of sustainable design principles and concepts.”
The goal to attain platinum certification through the council’s rating system stemmed from the Rice Center’s overall mission.
“Part of the mission of the center is to foster environmental education, and thus appropriate environmental practices, among the public,” says Leonard A. Smock, Ph.D., director of the center. “Because of this, we felt that it was important to not only use the building as a location to educate students and the general public about appropriate environmentally sustainable practices, but to also have the building itself be a showcase of how to put sustainability into practice.”
Scheduled to open March 2008, this approximately 6,000-square-foot facility has the potential to score 62 out of the possible 69 points on the council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design scorecard. Features will include a geothermal heating and cooling system, photovoltaic solar collectors, a state-of-the-science sewage disposal system, sustainable and recycled building materials, rain gardens and permeable paving systems to collect storm water runoff, cisterns to collect rainwater for toilets, water efficient plumbing fixtures, and a vegetated roof system. The building design also maximizes the use of daylight to reduce the need for artificial lighting and to minimize the total amount of light pollution.
Back in 2003, when VCU first established its six-year capital plan, sustainable design was in limited use. Few manufacturers carried the supplies needed, and developers were faced with high costs. “At that time, the price point was 3 to 5 percent above the return,” explains Brian Ohlinger, VCU associate vice president of Facilities Management. “Now manufacturers are getting on board and we’re looking at a 1 to 2 percent return — sometimes cost neutral.
“It makes good sense in the long term to use sustainable design, both economically and environmentally,” he says. “It’s a simple way we can make a difference in the world, and make a lasting impact on the lives of our children and their children.”
In addition to the education building, VCU partnered with Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries to design their Region 1 headquarters at the Rice property. Other VCU green building projects include a student services and recreational sports facility on the MCV Campus and a student recreational sports facility on the Monroe Park Campus, as well as the Medical Sciences Building II, a School of Dentistry addition and the School of Engineering Health and Life Sciences Lab.Rendering courtesy of Richard Chenoweth.