by Environmental Intern, Jessica Frank
(originally written for the campus newspaper, Buff 'n' Blue)
Gallaudet University’s newest building, the Sorenson Language and Communication Center (SLCC) boasts a number of things, its status as a landmark, the usage of Visu-Centric design elements, the deaf-friendly characteristics that encourage learning efficiency, and finally, the title of the greenest building on campus. The construction of the SLCC building has been designed to follow LEED standards to encourage sustainability. One of the architects of the building and the instructor of the Deaf Space course, Hansel Bauman shares, “Gallaudet should be quite proud of what they have achieved in terms of the LEED rating for the SLCC.”
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is a certified rating system from the U.S. Green Building Council that promotes maximum energy efficiency and sustainability in building design. SLCC was designed to follow LEED standards by using a project checklist for newly constructed buildings. With areas that cover everything from sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation & design process, SLCC has scored 27 out of 69 possible points. There are four levels of LEED certification, Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. SLCC’s twenty-seven “green” points have earned the building a LEED Certified placement.
Leala Holcomb, the president of Green Gallaudet, speaks on behalf of her organization with words of optimism; “We are delighted that our campus’ new building SLCC has been Certified LEED. SLCC is a great accumulation to all of our sustainable efforts on campus; however, the effort does not end with the SLCC building.”
Now, the bigger question is, what exactly has SLCC done to be “green”?
Out of a number of things, SLCC has been most successful in creating a design of water plumbing fixtures that allow for 30% water conservation. The landmark is composed of 20% recycled content, and at least 20% of the building consists of products that are both harvested and sold locally. SLCC also uses energy-efficient lighting, glazing, and mechanical systems. No one will have to worry about the possibility of hazardous chemicals either, because the building uses zero amounts of potentially harmful materials.
The site has been placed in a location where it does not create any harm to farmland or habitation for living species. It is also located in an area where people have access to public transportation and bike racks; both of which are intended to encourage reduction of the carbon footprint. The building has avoided any contribution to the expansion of landfills by recycling all construction waste.
There are “many points of connection between Deaf Space and green building,” Archiect Baruman explains. “…the use of diffused even lighting is one of the most important aspects of deaf architecture. This kind of lighting is best provided during the day by modulating natural daylight which is one of the biggest energy savers.” He also describes the impact of good air circulation. “[It] is an important aspect of a green building so the occupants have access to fresh air and air conditioning. This works in concert with the Deaf Space guidance for having open, free flowing spaces for visual access.”
Still, the Sorenson Language Communication Center has only earned itself the lowest level of LEED certification. What more can the building do?
SLCC could reduce energy usage by 60% by choosing resources of renewable energy. There are green power options of solar, wind, geothermal, low-impact hydro, biomass and bio-gas sources that could be used as opposed to gas and electricity. Another successful maneuver would be to provide accessible public transportation that runs on alternative fuels.
President Leala Holcomb states, “It is only the beginning of a greener campus. Green Gallaudet hopes future buildings on campus will get the highest level of certification, which is Platinum.”