Ransdell Hall nears LEED certification

WKU is hoping to score silver-level LEED certification for Ransdell Hall, which opened last semester and was dedicated in April.

Nick Bratcher

The construction process for Ransdell Hall didn’t draw to a close with its dedication ceremony last spring.

Instead, Ransdell Hall is being considered for silver-level certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a third-party verification system to determine a building’s environmentally friendly construction and design.

A building can qualify for LEED certification at four levels — Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum — with each one increasing in difficulty of completion and environmental friendliness.

The new building is the first of its kind at WKU and complies with the state legislature’s house bill 2, which now requires buildings costing more than $25 million to achieve the certification.

Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design and Construction, said LEED standards were a priority before the state law was even enacted and that WKU will continue pushing for the highest LEED certifications.

“The new music hall has been designed to be LEED Silver,” he said. “Even though it’s a $9 million project, it only has to be LEED Certified. We actually will receive one level higher than the minimum.”

Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan-Downing said using a third-party certification system such as LEED ensures a standard for construction in the future.

“LEED means our buildings will be more environmentally friendly,” she said. “They’re going to be more comfortable for the people that are in them, but they’re also going to use less resources.

“LEED is just a really great tool to make sure that we’re meeting their standards.”

WKU is not just holding its buildings to LEED standards, though.

In May of 2009, 11 staff members took a test developed by the U.S. Green Building Council — the organization responsible for the creation of the LEED system — to become LEED-Accredited Professionals.

Russell said the two-part, four-hour test was difficult, but worth the statement it made about WKU’s commitment to green construction.

“It shows our commitment as a university to not only sustainability, but to the environment and to the health of our customers,” he said.

The new focus on LEED certification has not been easy, though, said Ben Johnson, assistant director of Planning, Design and Construction and project manager for Ransdell Hall.

Johnson said LEED certification is still a new concept for many contractors, so they were wary to bid on the project.

“The biggest thing was convincing the contractors of their roles and responsibilities,” he said. “Most of the contractors that worked on Gary Ransdell Hall had not worked on LEED buildings before. There’s some bit of apprehension.”

Over time contractors are becoming more familiar with green building concepts and students will be the ones seeing the benefit, Russell said.

“Buildings are commissioned, which means there’s an additional checks and balance from engineers that actually go through the building from day one.” he said. “They closely monitor materials that go into the building. They truly manage the whole process closer and better.”