UND dedicates Gorecki Alumni Center with ‘green’ fanfare


Juan Pedraza

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UND dedicates Gorecki Alumni Center with ‘green’ fanfare

With the dedication of the Gorecki Alumni Center, the University of North Dakota and the UND Alumni Association and Foundation displayed their enduring commitment to several key principles of sustainability: energy efficiency, people-friendly working environment, and a reduced carbon footprint. The dedication ceremony for the Gorecki Center, named after Ben and Dorothy Gorecki, was Friday, Oct. 12.

The new Center is located on the south side of University Avenue, just west of the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

UND is consistently listed as one of the greenest colleges by independent sources. The Alumni Association used Friday's grand opening event to showcase UND's leadership in this area: the Gorecki Center, built to LEED Platinum standards, is the first such center in the country. It's designed as a unique gathering place for alumni, students, staff, faculty and the community.

The center will house UND Admissions, along with the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, and will serve as a welcome center to new students and families on campus. There are several spaces available in the building to reserve for receptions, banquets, conferences, and more.

With a gift from Glen and Janice Gransberg, the Center also is on track to achieve LEED Platinum certification--though built to LEED Platinum standards, it's not yet certified. LEED certification requires a separate application once the facility is completed and open for business.

The opening of the Gorecki Alumni Center dovetails appropriately with UND's ongoing commitment to sustainability on campus, underscored by President Robert Kelley's reaffirming UND's participation the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

LEED certification and how building qualifies

According to the U.S. Green Building Council's Web site, LEED is redefining the way we think about the places where we live, work and learn. As an internationally recognized mark of excellence, LEED provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance. LEED standards aim at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

LEED-certified buildings are designed, among other goals, to cut operating cost; reduce waste; conserve energy and water; be healthier and safer for occupants; and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions

Energy savings

Among the many ways in which the Center fulfills the University's sustainability commitment is its own "green power" through solar photovoltaic panels on the roof. These will provide supplemental electricity to the facility, projected to total 7 percent or more of the building's annual electric power usage.

Alternative transportation

"We wanted to encourage employees to walk or bike to work," said Rebecca Molldrem, AIA, LEED AP, an architect at JLG Architects. Molldrem also is chair and regional representative for USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) North Dakota Chapter. "We installed bicycle racks and changing rooms with showers are located in the lower level of the building to encourage walking and bicycling to work. Part of the LEED standard is close access to public transportation and preferred parking spots for low-emitting and fuel efficient vehicles and for employees that choose to carpool."

Storage and collection of recyclables

A room in the lower level of the Gorecki Alumni Center is designated for the collection and storage of recyclables. The intent is to facilitate the reduction of waste generated by building occupants that is hauled to and disposed of in landfills. The center collects and recycles paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastic, and metals.

Water use reduction

There is a water use reduction of about 40 percent from the baseline calculated for the Gorecki building. The system utilizes fixtures that are "low-flow" throughout. With all of this in place, the Gorecki Alumni Center is set to save about 50,000 gallons of water every year.

Low-emitting (low-e) materials

The nature of the air quality within a building affects the health and well-being of the occupants and can affect productivity and comfort. An Indoor Air Quality Management Plan was incorporated to oversee the use of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) during construction and before occupancy. VOCs are known to be cancerous in high amounts. The plan included evaluation of products such as adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, flooring materials, composite wood and system furniture and seating.

Lighting and thermal controls

The Gorecki Alumni Center uses daylight controls that monitor lighting electricity usage through the use of hardware and automatic lighting control software. This optimizes activation using scheduling and occupancy sensors. In offices with ample daylight, photocells are used to shutoff lights.

Along with the lighting controls, occupants can adjust thermal temperatures to suit personal comfort needs.

The Center uses compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, which will save about $45 per light when compared to similar incandescent light bulbs.

On top of lighting and thermal controls and the use of CFL bulbs, 90 percent of the building's occupants have access to natural light and a view to the outside.

Building materials

The Construction Waste Management program ensures that 75 percent of the construction waste is recycled or salvageable. Also, any existing trees that were removed from the site were saved and are being dried for reuse.


At least 50 percent of the building site is covered with native or adaptive habitat, which doesn't require sprinkling. A blend of six lawn grasses decreases the lawn's dependency for maintenance; there is no irrigation system on site.

The trees around the site were selected for their color and disease resistance, and were coordinated with on campus staff for hardiness and impact.

On site, storm water is harvested below the parking lot in storage structures and slowly released from the site, allowing larger landscaped areas. Lastly, the permeable outdoor seating areas assist in storm water infiltration by using a granite aggregate, rather than poured concrete.

Geothermal system

The cooling system for the Gorecki Alumni Center is ground source geothermal, which utilizes water heat pumps, water to air heat pumps, and energy recovery for exhaust and outside air exchange.

The ground source geothermal system includes a well field with 142 wells with an equivalent 210 feet deep per well. Geothermal pumps are more efficient, safer, quieter and healthier than alternative energy systems.

There are two air handling units in the system, the second of which is responsible for catching the exhaust from bathrooms and such; it recovers heat and energy before releasing the air outside. Most building systems simply release the air outside.

The building also has variable frequency drivers, which monitor building wide temperature and maintain comfortable heating and cooling levels while also conserving energy. Traditional systems simply turn on or off.

Green cleaning products

Janitorial paper products and trash bags at the Gorecki Center meet set sustainable requirements, also in line with the Green Seal or Environmental Choice standards. The products are derived from rapidly renewable resources made from tree-free fibers. Among many other sustainability initiatives in this area, all janitorial cleaning equipment used in the building complies with Green Seal or Environmental Choice standards. Hand soaps contain no antimicrobial agents except where required by health codes or other regulations (e.g.- food service, health care requirements).

Food and catering

UND Dining Services is providing catering services to the Gorecki Alumni Center. With UND's ongoing commitment to sustainability, Dining Services has undertaken many of their own initiatives to promote environmental awareness and sustainability on campus, including their work within the Gorecki Alumni Center. Their initiatives include working to incorporate Lean Path, a waste tracking system into their three dining centers. UND Food Services also foster strong relationships with local and regional food growers and manufacturers; this has allowed Dining Services, when possible, to increase their use of local and regionally produced food products.

Additionally, waste kitchen grease is recycled, and through the efforts of Midwest Grease of Redwood Falls, MN, reused as either bio-fuels or animal feed.

As these efforts are added up, the total is an excellent example of an environmentally responsible and forward-looking building.

"This is more than checking doors and windows; it's checking all the connections and pipes, to assure there are no air leaks, it's about water use efficiency, it's about a people friendly work environment, and about the many other elements of a facility built to LEED Platinum standards," said Molldrem.

Juan Pedraza

Editor University Relations

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