GGC library earns LEED Gold certification

Georgia Gwinnett College’s commitment to being green has earned the college a golden honor.

Georgia Gwinnett College’s commitment to being green has earned the college a golden honor.

The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification to GGC’s recently completed Library and Learning Center.

“From the start, our students made it very clear that they wanted their college to uphold the highest standards of environmental responsibility and stewardship,” said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. “Earning a LEED Gold certification is a testament to our students’ collective vision, our staff’s dedication to that vision, and the insightful skills of the building’s designers.”

The LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of sustainable buildings. By using less energy, LEED-certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the community.

GGC’s facility is the first academic library in Georgia to achieve LEED Gold certification, and one of only seven Gold-certified academic libraries in the U.S. It is the fifth Gold-certified facility in Gwinnett County.

Designing and building the facility to LEED specifications proved a challenge, as libraries traditionally use large amounts of energy for lighting and for climate control systems needed to preserve printed materials. The college’s goal of achieving LEED Silver certification required even higher standards.

The international architecture, planning, engineering, interior design and program management firm Leo A. Daly answered the challenge with a design that surpassed expectations.

“GGC is visionary in its approach to education,” said Jerry Voith, vice president and managing principal of Leo A. Daly Atlanta. “Both the college and our project team wanted to build a library that not only had world-class facilities but also was committed to its sustainable responsibilities. Achieving the LEED Gold certification, which exceeded GGC’s mandated LEED Silver goal, stands as proof of that commitment.”

The 90,883 square-foot, four-story Library and Learning Center is flooded with natural light. It can store up to 300,000 volumes and includes an Academic Enhancement Center, a Center for Teaching Excellence, a large multi-purpose lecture room, a quiet reading room, an archives area, 37 study rooms and a café.

The building’s centerpiece is a three-story atrium that houses the Information Commons, an open study area providing a variety of furnishings for individual or group study. The atrium’s curtain wall provides impressive views to and from the central campus. Balconies and windows overlook the expansive atrium area from upper level floors.

“Leo A. Daly’s team designed a building that is not only beautiful, but functional and efficient,” Kaufman said. “The features that contributed to earning the LEED Gold certification are impressive. We are very proud of the entire project team’s work.”

Using an integrated design approach and strategy that included high-efficiency lighting fixtures, windows that saturated 75 percent of the interior spaces with natural daylight as well as efficient insulation, the team achieved a 32 percent reduction in energy use.

“Over the expected 50-year minimum lifetime of the library, it will produce significant, long-term budgetary savings due to its energy efficiencies,” said Eddie Beauchamp, vice president for Facilities. “It will reduce the college’s carbon footprint and will provide a healthier environment for students. As the ‘Campus of Tomorrow,’ it only makes sense that GGC is committed to state-of-the-art building design.”

Recycling and reusing materials during construction was another area of emphasis. More than 95 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills to local recycling facilities. Almost 95 percent of the reinforced steel used was recycled from scrap cars. The building’s drywall is made of 95 percent recycled content and is a by-product of industrial waste material. All the wood ceilings in the building are fabricated from 97 percent recycled materials. Additionally, more than 30 percent of the recycled content had been originally used within a 500-mile radius of the site.

Because the Library and Learning Center is located on a previously undeveloped site, the project team took several measures to minimize the clearance of the site and disturbance of the surrounding area. Planning for four stories reduced the building’s footprint and maximized the conservation of existing natural terrain.

Other sustainable elements included reducing the building’s water use by 40 percent compared to a typical library through features such as high-efficiency restroom fixtures and occupant sensors; designing drought-tolerant landscaping for more efficient use of exterior water; high indoor air quality; use of natural materials and finishes, and using 2.5 percent environmentally-focused products as well as products with low off-gassing. Several of these measures also produce healthier indoor air quality.

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