In a commitment to increase sustainability at the Society’s headquarters building in Reston, Virginia, the ASCE Foundation, the building’s owner, pursued the prestigious LEED Gold Certification rating, and on August 28, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) confirmed that ASCE had achieved its goal.
In 2008, the Foundation pledged to support ASCE’s sustainability initiative and committed to the following action: “In the continuing life cycle maintenance and refurbishment of its headquarters, and other facilities owned and leased, utilize sustainable (green) building standards and practices, wherever feasible, to demonstrate and promote sustainable technologies.”
“ASCE is proud to walk the talk,” says ASCE Executive Director, Patrick J. Natale, P.E., CAE, F.ASCE. “By upgrading our headquarters to LEED Gold status we demonstrated our commitment to sustainability. While taking this action, which makes our building more ‘green,’ we have also reduced our operating costs with an excellent ROI (return on investment). Gold certification is a real honor for our headquarters building.”
Built in 1985, the ASCE headquarters facility comprises about 125,000-square feet and has undergone several tenant improvement projects, including two major renovations in 1995-1997 and 2008-2009. The building was purchased by the ASCE Foundation in 1994.
Among the things ASCE has done to achieve the LEED Gold Certification rating is upgrade all 44 toilets to auto-flushing, which has reduced water usage by more than 30 percent. Beginning in October 2011, ASCE started a major lighting project to save energy throughout the building, which included replacing all existing T12 lighting tubes and non-electric ballasts with T8 tubes with electric ballasts. The new lighting tubes were also placed on sensors, which made turning off the office lights automatic at the end of the day or when not occupied. Another significant project was the installation of a sub-meter to track energy usage in ASCE’s computer server rooms. Annual electricity savings from the lighting retrofit come to nearly $32,000.
ASCE also began tracking greenhouse gas emissions and in 2012 alone saved more than 209 metric tons of CO2 emissions, a contributor to a changing climate. In addition, the Society implemented a low-impact Building Exterior and Hardscape Management Plan, which helps preserve the local ecology by reducing pollution and chemical runoff. Meters and moisture sensors were added to the exterior irrigation system to reduce water use; a Building Commission Plan was developed to ensure that the building systems are operating as designed and upgrades are scheduled as necessary; and a cleaning policy was implemented that applies to the whole building, encouraging the use of only green cleaning practices and products.
Because all of ASCE’s departments now participate in a sustainable purchasing program, more than 50 percent of all purchases now contain recycled or renewable material with zero environmental toxins. The Society’s Sold Waste Management Policy has improved the building’s total recycling rate from 30 percent to 50 percent.
To achieve Gold Certification, ASCE first earned valuable points by being awarded an Energy Star Certificate of Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy for energy efficiency. Energy Star recognizes homes and businesses that save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
“Being awarded the Energy Star was consistent with ASCE’s definition of sustainability, which is not only looking at going green, but also having a positive impact on people and the financial bottom line,” says Natale.
The LEED rating system, developed and administered by the USGBC, is designed to promote design and construction practices that increase a building’s profitability while at the same time reducing its negative environmental impacts and improving occupant health and well-being. The LEED rating system offers four certification levels—Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum, which correspond to the number of credits accrued in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.