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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Receives Highest Green Building Rating

Gates Foundation building, Seattle

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus has just received the prestigious LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction) platinum certification, making it the largest non-profit LEED-NC platinum building on Earth.

Located in the heart of Seattle across from the Space Needle, the new campus was designed by the architecture firm NBBJ and completed in April 2011.

The 640,000 square foot campus features two-acres of living roofs, which are covered in grasses and plants native to the Northwest. Not only do the living roofs look appealing and attract birds, they absorb water when it rains, which eventually cycles down to the underground water storage system – a storage system which can store 750-thousand gallons of water.

This water is then cleaned of pollutants and filtered back into the campus for use in the irrigation system, reflecting pools, and toilets. The building’s state of the art water system has reduced its potable water consumption by 80%.

And in terms of energy consumption, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is at the top of its class.

The roof mounted solar power system provides enough energy for a third of the buildings hot energy use. Water collected in the underground storage system is chilled overnight, and then utilized during the daytime to help regulate temperatures and keep the building cool. As a result of these and many other energy efficiency features, the building has cut its energy consumption by 40%. Its upfront investment in energy efficiency will have paid for itself in 30 years – and since the building is designed for at least 100 years of use, these are significant financial savings in the long-term.

In response to comments about the new campus, project director and Arup design team leader Cormac Deavy said: “Perhaps most satisfying is that this sustainability achievement was the result of an integrated design process, not a race to acquire points. The mechanical systems were selected for their return on investment, operations and maintenance considerations, future flexibility, and their ability to improve the indoor environmental quality for the staff.”

LEED buildings have received a lot of attention in the recent months, with the construction of the greenest office building in the world and LEED’s certification of its 10,000th commercial building. The successful completion of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus is just another indication that green buildings are feasible on a large scale, and can save the building operators money in terms of water and energy use.

What are your thoughts on green buildings? Do you think the LEED certification system is effective in encouraging the construction of green buildings?

Image courtesy Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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