Gorecki Center achieves highest LEED building rating – why does it matter?


Brian Johnson

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Gorecki Center achieves highest LEED building rating – why does it matter?

For a building meant to conform to its environment, the University of North Dakota's Gorecki Alumni Center is anything but unpretentious.

It wasn't meant to be. With the help of UND, JLG Arcitects looked to design a contemporary building that was unmatched in efficiency and resource management. The data collected since its completion in September 2012 show even better results than expected.

UND announced that the complex was certified Platinum by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program during a Nov. 13 news conference. LEED is an offshoot of the US Green Building Council, which provides common ground for what "sustainable" and "efficient" mean in regard to different building types and varying climates.

LEED's point-based system evaluates buildings based on efficiency, savings and overall building performance. Certification levels are silver, gold, and platinum.

The platinum certification is the highest rating and puts the Gorecki in the top 3 percent of all LEED projects in the country. It is the first building in North Dakota and the only alumni center in the country to go platinum.

"The UND Gorecki Alumni Center, we believe, is the first of a new paradigm in construction, where buildings work for their owners and its occupants," said Tim O'Keefe, executive vice president and CEO of UND's Alumni Association & Foundation.

UND was moving toward a project like this for some time. The University Place student housing complex was the first campus building in North Dakota to be built to various LEED standards. Soon after, an addition to the College of Education & Human Development was certified LEED Silver. Then, the Gorecki Center, developed out of a successful partnership between JLG Arcitects, UND and alumni donors, got the ball rolling.

"In addition to Ben and Dorothy Gorecki, who made the lead gift in bringing about the Gorecki Alumni Center, I especially want to recognize the late Glen Glansberg, who along with his wife Janis, gave the money to allow us to pursue the platinum certification," said O'Keefe. "Glen was extremely strong advocate of caring for the environment, and I know that he would be incredibly gratified today to know that his donation created the 'greenest building' in North Dakota."

The money the Goreckis and the Gransbergs invested is already reducing UND's carbon footprint.

In the past year, the Gorecki Center used 44 percent less energy than a building of equal size, saving nearly $40,000 in the process. A white roof reduces summer temperatures with the help of high performance glass and adjustable shades. The increase in natural light counters the need for artificial light, saving electricity as 207 solar panels inject energy into the system.

Along with passive and active solar power, a dynamic geothermal system shifts heat from one area to another with the help of a HVAC system.

Then, there's water. The building itself used 38 percent less water – 63,350 gallons fewer – than a comparable building. Outside the building, an extensive storm water management system filters and cleans rainwater before it seeps back into the ground for irrigation. It also keeps the Center from drawing on city water systems, saving nearly 300,000 gallons of water in the past year.

The Gorecki Center gets a blue-chip for waste management as well. It saved 73 tons of waste from North Dakota landfills with its organized recycling system.

Along with the environmental benefits, the Gorecki Center provides a sunny work environment for Alumni and Foundation staff members.

Statistics show that access to outdoor views combined with great air quality equal fewer sick days and more productivity. Throughout the four-floor building, including the basement, 97 percent of the work spaces have a view of the outdoors. Kris Compton, chair of the Alumni Association Board, noted that the building also brings in 25 percent more outside air than comparable buildings, while using 60 percent less energy to heat the air.

"The air quality in this building is just amazing. The filters in the building are 100 percent more efficient than those in standard buildings, meaning the air we're all breathing right now is about as close to being out there as we can get," said Compton, while taking a glance outside.

The atmosphere of the Gorecki Center, inside and out, is modern. Sophisticated and efficient, it represents the workplace of the future, and the people directly linked to its creation see it as a model for new construction projects.

"We are definitely walking the talk in our daily operation of the Alumni Association and Foundation, as well as (UND) Admissions, who occupy this building," said O'Keefe. "We're an energy state. We have a responsibility to the long term health of our state, our citizens and our wallets to design buildings that require the lowest possible maintenance costs with the healthiest indoor environment."

"This has been the greatest project I've had the privilege to be involved with in my career," said Jim Galloway, JLG Arcitects partner. "It's just been awesome."

Check out the real-time energy, water, and resource usage of the Gorecki Center at http://buildingdashboard.com/clients/und/gorecki.

Brian Johnson University & Public Affairs

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