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Green Building Blooms on Campus

It may look steely grey on the outside, but the newly-completed Ambulatory Care Center (ACC) is now the greenest building on campus. The first UMass Chan structure designed with sustainability in mind, the ACC will begin to be occupied next month as a mix of clinical, educational and dry research departments move into their new offices. 

“The successful completion of the ACC is an important milestone for the Medical School’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint,” said John Baker, PE, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management at UMass Chan. “We decided early in the process to design the building to achieve LEED Silver certification. We’re pleased to be on track to meet that ambitious goal.” 

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a third-party certification system created by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for “green building” construction and renovation projects. It’s regarded as the premier certification program for sustainable construction. 

To meet the high standards required for LEED Silver certification, numerous sustainable features were integrated into the ACC’s design. One of the most significant was employing a commissioning agent to oversee the design and installation of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems, according to Shawn McGuinness, senior architect and project manager, who oversaw the sustainability elements for the ACC project. 

“LEED requires that the mechanical systems in the building be properly sized for maximum efficiency. The commissioning agent is a second set of eyes looking at the mechanical design and making sure the system is installed and functioning properly,” McGuinness said, explaining that a system that is too big or too small, “will consume more electricity than is needed.” 

Several green components built in to the ACC focus on preventing solar heat gain and thus lowering the need for mechanical cooling. These include a white roof to diminish the building’s “heat island effect” and reflect rather than absorb heat; a tight exterior building envelope with tinted, reflective, and insulated glass; and an east-west building orientation to minimize the number of south-facing windows. 

Water use in the ACC will be reduced by nearly 30 percent with automatic low-flow/low-flush plumbing fixtures. Electricity consumption will be lowered by incorporating maximum controllability in the lighting and zoned heating systems in the building. “Some people prefer less heat in the winter and less air conditioning in the summer, and they will be able to control that within limits,” McGuinness said. Lighting will be controlled by occupancy sensors throughout the entire building, with individuals managing the task lighting in their work areas. 

In addition, LEED certification points will be achieved by the use of flooring materials, adhesives and paints with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to reduce chemical emissions. Whenever possible, materials with recycled content were used, including in the building materials and furnishings. 

According to McGuinness, the LEED certification process begins after the building is fully occupied. “It takes between six and 12 months for our application to be reviewed, and hopefully to get approved,” she said. The LEED certification will officially verify that the ACC meets the high green-building and performance measures set out in the design. 

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