Chicago Area College Dorms Go Green

Now, not only can college students learn about sustainability, they can also live in green dorms. Lately many Chicago area college dormitories have decided to become more ecofriendly.

The latest green dorm belongs to North Park College located in Naperville, Ill., a far western suburb of Chicago. Set to open September 14, this new dorm boasts precast concrete walls, geothermal heat and air conditioning, and a white reflective roof. Also, the entire building is constructed of materials found in Illinois and the surrounding area.

According to a July 9, 2009 Daily Herald article, “The most impressive part of this building might be its heating and air-conditioning systems.”

Project manager Glenn Behnke explains that there is no natural gas in the building.

Instead of using a gas furnace, this facility “will be one of the largest buildings in the Midwest to be heated and cooled using a geothermal system”, according to Charlie Saville, vice president of sustainability for Sieben Energy Associates of Chicago and LEED consultant for this project.

The dorm will also have covered bike storage lot, a nearby bus stop, energy efficient lights, and recycled building materials and glues, sealants, paints, and carpets that emit little or no volatile organic compounds.

North Park is hoping for LEED certification on this project, adding to yet another LEED certified college facility in the Chicago suburbs. Judson College’s (Elgin, Ill.) new library is LEED certified.

Located in Chicago, Saint Xavier’s Arthur Rubloff Hall became Illinois’ first university building to gain LEED Gold certification in 2006. The university’s Agatha O’Brein Hall, which opened in 2008 is also Gold LEED certified.

Saint Xaviers Arthur Rubloff Hall

Saint Xavier's Arthur Rubloff Hall

According to Saint Xavier, Rubloff Hall saves $55,000 annually by consuming 53 percent less energy than other facilities at SXU [Saint Xavier]. The Building Management System… adapts to the needs of a room by measuring [carbon dioxide] and featuring a side ventilation system that allows the air to flow upward, keeping a constant stream of fresh, clean air and forcing out older air through vents located higher in the walls.”

The mechanical room at the Agatha O’Brien Hall uses the most technology to run the building efficiently based on its demand of water or electricity, allowing for the double lifespan of the machinery that maintains optimal comfort levels.

So, not only are the students who live in these college quarters smart — the buildings themselves are smart too.

LEED, Silver & Gold

It’s a common term nowadays — LEED certified, Silver LEED certified, Gold LEED certified? But, what exactly the difference between these building classifications?

LEED certification is determined on a point system and changes from year to year. In LEED 2009 (v 3) there are 100 possible base points plus extra six points for for Innovation in Design and Regional Priority. Buildings can qualify for four levels of LEED certification:

  1. Certified — 40-49 points
  2. Silver — 50-59 points
  3. Gold — 60-79 points
  4. Platinum — 80-100 points

Points have been distributed in the following ways:

  • Sustainable Sites – 26 possible points
  • Water efficiency – 10 possible points
  • Materials and resources – 14 possible points
  • Indoor environmental quality – 15 possible points
  • Innovation in design – 5 possible points
  • Regional priority – 4 possible points

There is also LEED V2.2 for new construction and major renovations for commercial buildings, which consists of 69 possible points,but can qualify for LEED, Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification.

There are also different versions of this rating system based upon specific project types:

  • LEED for New Construction: New construction and major renovations (the most commonly applied-for LEED certification)[15]
  • LEED for Existing Buildings: Existing buildings seeking LEED certification
  • LEED for Commercial Interiors: Commercial interior fitouts by tenants
  • LEED for Core and Shell: Core-and-shell projects (total building minus tenant fitouts)
  • LEED for Homes: Homes
  • LEED for Neighborhood Development: Neighborhood development
  • LEED for Schools: Recognizes the unique nature of the design and construction of K-12 schools
  • LEED for Retail: Consists of two rating systems. One is based on New Construction and Major Renovations version 2.2. The other track is based on LEED for Commercial Interiors version 2.0. (Wikipedia,

Platinum is the highest achievement for any organization and there are fewer than 100 buildings in the United States that hold this distinction. Recently, the headquarters for Novas International Inc., located St. Charles, Mo. was awarded the highest USGBC LEED certification. Novus produces animal health and nutrition products. According to an April 28, 2009 St. Louis Journal article “The new facility also features the largest array of solar panels in Missouri at 5,000 square feet, reused salvaged materials, storm water system, skylights and preferred parking for fuel-efficient vehicles.”

In 2003, the Willow School, located in Gladstone, N.J., became the first private school building in the US to earn gold LEED certification. And, the Barn, which is part of the school, gained Platinum certification in 2008. To read more about this school visit

Portland, Oregons  Avalon Hotel & Spa

Portland, Oregon's Avalon Hotel & Spa

Located in Portland, Ore., the Avalon Hotel & Spa is only one of nine other hotels in the world to achieve silver LEED certification.

“The Avalon Hotel & Spa is to be commended for achieving LEED for existing buildings certification. This facility is one that both the community and its guests can be proud of,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO, Founding Chair, USGBC

And, a recent example of a LEED certified building is San Francisco’s Orchard Garden Hotel.

No longer is it just corporate America that is going green — any building can go green — from educational institutions to high quality hotels and resorts.

So, What Exactly is LEED Certification?

It seems like every new building going up nowadays brags that it is LEED certified and contains many sustainable elements. But, what exactly is LEED certification? What does LEED stand for anyway?

Well, LEED is a term used by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. — LEED.

According to the USGBC, “LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.”

LEED applies to all building types — commercial and residential. It also works throughout a building’s lifecycle — from design and construction to operations and maintenance to retrofit.

LEED measures eight separate categories:

  1. Sustainable Sites
  2. Water Efficiency
  3. Energy & Atmosphere
  4. Materials & Resources
  5. Locations & Linkages
  6. Awareness & Education
  7. Innovation in Design
  8. Regional Priority

For more information about each category visit

LEED enables project teams to deliver certified performance for their buildings. Third-party certification through the independent Green Building Certification Institute ( assures that LEED buildings are constructed and operated as intended.”

More about the different levels of LEED certification to come in an upcoming entry.