Berea College's Deep Green Residence Hall earning prestigious reputation

In addition to recently winning two prestigious 2013 Build Kentucky Awards, including 2013 AGC of Kentucky Project of the Year, Berea College’s Deep Green Residence Hall – built by Messer – has earned the distinction from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as the highest-scoring, LEED-certified residence hall in the world.

The building, which earned a score of 90 points, is one of only four residence halls in the world to earn Platinum Certification. The LEED certification denotes independent verification from the U.S. Green Building Council that a building is designed and constructed “using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.”

“This is an extraordinary achievement,” says Richard Dodd, Berea College capital projects manager, explaining that Deep Green was originally programmed to achieve 85 LEED points. “Through collaborative efforts we found synergies and cost efficiencies that allowed us to earn the additional five points for the highest LEED score in the world for a residence hall.”

Considered the benchmark in green building design and construction, LEED provides a framework for identifying and implementing measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions and addresses all aspects of a building’s performance: from the application of materials to renewable energy, use of day-lighting and natural ventilation, landscaping, the indoor environment and more. In determining a building’s certification, LEED measures performance in several sustainability categories, including energy and atmosphere (energy consumption and monitoring and the use of renewable energy sources), water efficiency, materials and resources, innovation in design, and awareness and education.

The facility’s high sustainability marks first earned it recognition in the form of a 2013 AGC of Kentucky Build Kentucky Award in the LEED category. It was then announced that Deep Green had won the 2013 Project of the Year, the AGC of Kentucky’s top honor. Messer received both awards during the AGC of Kentucky’s awards banquet on April 11, at the Lexington Convention Center. The company’s last Build Kentucky award came in 2012 for its Southland Christian Church – Richmond Road Campus project, which was honored in the Building category.

About the Deep Green Residence Hall
In 2012, Berea College chose Messer Construction Co. to build what it planned to be one of the world’s most sustainable residence halls. To achieve that ambitious vision, both the finished product – a 41,500-square-foot, 123-bed residence hall – and each stage in making it would need to live up to lofty standards for sustainability set by the Living Building Challenge (LBC) and the US Green Building Council.

“Berea College is a longtime, respected partner of ours,” said Bob Williams, vice president at Messer. “When they came to us, their expectations were very clear.

“To execute the project to their standards, our team needed to be mindful of every detail and reconsider the ‘norm’ from all possible angles.”

Construction of the Deep Green Residence Hall did ultimately live up to, and in most cases exceed, those original goals for sustainability. Deep Green’s 90 LEED points make it the leanest residence hall in the world, according to the Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG), which tracks buildings’ levels of sustainability. Measured on a scale of 115 possible points, Deep Green is one of only four measured buildings to have achieved the highest classification for building sustainability, LEED Platinum certification (80-point requirement). No other LEED-certified residence hall has achieved more than 84 points.

“It’s an honor to have this facility earn such high praise,” said David Lambert, Messer’s senior project manager for Deep Green.

“Quite a bit of effort was poured in from all involved parties to make this project a trailblazer. We hope some of the methods and tactics we used here in Berea can serve as case studies for future projects.”

In all, more than 89 percent of project waste was recycled, easily surpassing the original project goal of 75 percent. Numerous tactics were used to achieve this: excess brick, porcelain and ceramic tile were recycled into new bricks; excess drywall was used on farms to clean troughs and was later broken down for use as fertilizer on crop fields; and excess foundation foam was reused on site as insulation in the headers of load-bearing walls. In the end, 987,476 pounds of construction waste was diverted from landfills.

With a need to pay close attention to material sourcing, Messer designated a full-time employee on site to handle only that issue throughout preconstruction and construction. Among the most significant challenges was adhering to LBC standards for petal recognition, which prohibit the presence of 14 “Red List” materials and chemicals in both construction and the final product.

One such “Red List” example is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a common material used in areas like piping, roofing and wire-coating. PVC itself is not damaging to the environment, but environmentally harmful chemicals used in its manufacturing landed it on the list, excluding it from Deep Green’s jobsite.

“Finding alternatives to usual routes was certainly a challenge,” Lambert said, “but credit goes to Berea College for staying true to their vision and offering our team full support throughout the project, no matter our need.”

Despite the financial and logistical strains caused by the unique guidelines and requirements, the project was still completed on-time and within budget.

“Timeline and budget were important to us because we, along with Berea College, wanted to show that this sort of approach is realistic,” Williams explained. “If this project was going to lead the way for the future of construction, it absolutely needed to suffice in those two areas.”

To further cut down on the footprint of the project, Messer sourced 49 percent of construction materials from within 500 miles of the jobsite, easily topping the LEED standard of 20 percent. That mark was further lessened by the use of uncommon tactics, like using mules to transport wood or utilizing reclaimed wood from either deadfall or forest fires.

“Sustainability was the name of the game throughout the entire project,” Lambert said. “Berea College was looking for this project to be used as an example for sustainability, so every move we made – anything from bringing in an off-site consultant to insulating the building – was done with an eye to sustainability and being lean.”

That sustainability didn’t stop with construction practices, either. The completed building receives 15 percent of its energy from a 50 kilowatt solar array on the roof. Additionally, each bedroom has a lightweight 60-inch ceiling fan called a Haiku®. Manufactured by Big Ass Fans, Haiku® has proven 80 percent more efficient than conventional ceiling fans.

Among Deep Green’s most impressive features is an automated energy-monitoring system called a Vital Signs Green Dashboard System, which monitors the building’s energy consumption in real time. This creates a sustainable, conscious residential environment and allows for residents and facility managers to adjust equipment function to see immediate results. Furthermore, Deep Green’s heating and cooling is run by a geothermal and reverse-cycle chiller system, which draws heat from the earth via water from 48 wells drilled below the building’s parking lot. That water is then pumped through a reverse-cycle chiller in the building’s basement, which uses it to heat and cool the building.

During construction, the new residence hall was met with enthusiasm by students, who helped install things like rain gardens and planting beds, build furniture, and assist with accounting, photography and public relations. That interest turned into demand upon the project’s completion, as students are now selected to live in Deep Green via a campus-wide lottery.
 

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