'LEEDing' the way

Biomedical Research Building earns ‘green’ design certification

Biomedical Research Building earns ‘green’ design certification
UT Southwestern employees who led a team to help the Biomedical Research Building achieve LEED certification include (from left) John Echeverria, Guillermo Ramos, and John Hafker, shown here in front of the building’s high-performing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

By Ali V. Adams

The Biomedical Research Building on North Campus has been recognized for its energy-saving and environment-friendly design.

At 355,469 square feet, the building is the largest LEED silver-certified laboratory space in Texas. The certification came following a five-year review.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), established by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998, is an international rating system for designing and building the world’s greenest, most energy-efficient, and highest-performing buildings.

John Echeverria, Senior Project Manager, Capital Improvement Projects, UT Southwestern Physical Plant Administration, said achieving LEED certification for a research facility is quite an accomplishment.

“Research facilities are very energy-driven,” Mr. Echeverria said. “Labs typically use three to four times more energy than office buildings because of the number of air changes per hour.”

Air changes per hour measure how many times the air within a defined space is replaced. Four to 15 air changes per hour are needed to heat or cool a laboratory to levels acceptable to a lab’s occupants and their research experiments. Labs also are filled with energy-consuming equipment. Some of the greediest – fume hoods – may use three or more times the energy of an average American home.

“UT Southwestern’s lab air-change standard was a minimum of 10 air changes per hour,” said Michael Paul, Assistant Vice President of Hospital Facilities, Physical Plant Administration. “To minimize energy use while still ensuring safety, a panel of UT Southwestern doctors reviewed and approved a new air-change standard for the Biomedical Research Building, allowing for a minimum of eight air changes for occupied spaces and four changes for unoccupied spaces per hour.”

To balance its energy-hungry features, the Biomedical Research Building includes high-performing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; low-flow sinks, toilets, and urinals; a rainwater recapture system; and reflective roof material. The HVAC system alone contributed to 14.3 percent energy savings.

“This project benefits all stakeholders in some way,” Mr. Paul said. “It helps maximize the land we’ve used, as the 12-story building minimizes urban sprawl. The low-flow water fixtures and occupancy sensors help us reduce the amount of water and energy used, as well as the amount of money we spend on those resources. And the building occupants benefit from having added natural lighting, thermal control access, and close proximity to internal shuttles and multiple DART bus routes.”

New construction and major renovation projects at UT Southwestern all have LEED initiatives integrated into their building standards, Mr. Paul said.

“The Biomedical Research Building was constructed to the environmental standards of LEED,” he said. “But for it to be truly ‘green,’ the building occupants must do their part to reduce energy consumption. By taking simple steps such as shutting the fume-hood sash in labs, turning off equipment when not in use, and switching off lights when leaving the room, UT Southwestern can do its part to save energy and money, and to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.”