Johnson County buildings earn gold sustainability rating


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The Johnson County Conservation Board is now working in a building with cabinets made out of compressed sunflower seeds and countertops made out of recycled glassware.

The new building, Conservation Headquarters, was just awarded LEED certification — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — at the Gold Level last week. The offices, along with the Conservation Maintenance Facility Building, are the first Johnson County departmental buildings to receive such a high sustainability rating.

Several University of Iowa buildings are expected to receive LEED certification in the next three years.

Harry Graves, the Conservation Board director, said the buildings are important because they demonstrate the county's commitment to helping the environment.

"As conservation people, we don't just wear the shirts," he said. "We walk the walk and talk the talk."
The buildings, both located in Kent Park, 2048 Highway 6, cost a little under $2 million to create. In order to be gold certified, each building had to meet criteria in energy use, lighting, and the water and material used. The facilities are also made of materials that came from within 500 miles of the site.

Though built in March 2010, the lengthy certification process, which cost roughly $10,000, required the buildings to go through a cooling and heating season. Graves said the environmental benefits are worth the price.

"There is no question in my mind the energy savings of a building of this design will more than offset this," Graves said.

John Shaw, the architect who became LEED-accredited to design the Johnson County buildings, said he plans to create more such buildings because they conserve energy.

"I think it's everyone's social and environmental responsibility to produce buildings that are as considerate of our resources as possible," he said.

Creating these buildings can also be more expensive than normal construction — around 1 percent to 5 percent more — but these are also offset by the low maintenance costs, said Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability. Prices have also decreased over the past few years as LEED certified buildings have grown in popularity.

"[The buildings] are becoming the new norm," she said.

The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED certification in March 2000 to push for sustainable buildings and procedures through a rating system.

Buildings can earn a certified ranking with more than 40 points, silver with more than 50 points, gold with more than 60, and platinum with more than 80.

"The Johnson County Conservation Board's LEED Gold certification for these two buildings demonstrates tremendous green building leadership," said Rick Fedrizzi, the president, CEO, and founding chairman of the Green Building Council, in a press release.

LEED buildings are also present on the UI campus, the first being Beckwith Boathouse constructed in 2009. The boathouse also received a gold rating.

Renovations that have earned or are expected to earn a LEED rating at the university include Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Stuit Hall, and the College of Public Health.

Christensen said the buildings help the community because their overall costs are cheaper and they also help the environment.

"That's a public building, and the long-term costs and maintenance costs are lower," she said. "They are much more environmentally efficient and energy efficient."

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