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Law School's South Hall Awarded LEED Gold Rating

By Katie Vloet

From the beginning of the planning process, leaders of the University of Michigan Law School sought ways to make the new South Hall academic building a sustainable structure. That effort has been recognized with the newly awarded LEED Gold certification rating.

The 100,000-square-foot building's LEED score of 43​ placed it solidly in the Gold category, which ranges from 39 to 51 points. LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system designed by the U.S. Green Building Council to evaluate the sustainability features of structures.

"We are very pleased by the LEED Gold certification, and also very proud of how we went about achieving it," said Dean Evan Caminker. "We wanted to make sure everything we were doing was sensible and appropriate for the building, as well as sustainable. We made an effort to seek LEED points by doing only things that would work well for the building and the people who use and maintain it."

South Hall
View interior and exterior photos of South Hall.

South Hall, which opened to the public in January 2012, is a four-story building that combines a nod to history—the use of exterior stone from the same quarry used in the much-older Hutchins Hall, for example—and new features, such as wiring for modern technology.

LEED points were awarded in a number of categories, including the materials and resources used to construct the building, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. Dual-flush toilets and low-flow sinks added points for water efficiency; high-efficiency HVAC systems and sensors that reduce indoor lighting with increased daylight contributed to the points awarded in the energy and atmosphere category.

"We have sophisticated lighting and HVAC systems, the likes of which have never been seen on this campus," said Michele Frasier Wing, '98, director of finance and planning at the Law School.

She also pointed out that some of the energy-efficiency standards are more difficult to achieve because of the school's geographic location. "Our systems have to deal with a range of 100 degrees in a year, which is a much bigger challenge than more temperate climates," she said.

Some of the systems are extremely complex. The intricate Quantum lighting system alone, for instance, required a three-day training session for Lois Harden, facilities manager for the Law School.

Sustainability was a clear focus throughout construction, Harden added, because an employee of Walbridge, the construction management company, constantly monitored and tracked all the materials that contractors were using.

Michigan Law students were actively engaged in the project from the outset. While the Law School always planned to make the building sustainable, some students urged the school to seek LEED certification for the project as well. One of those students, Sarah Bullard, '10, was pleased to hear the news of the LEED Gold certification.

"All along, we wanted to make sure the new building was beautiful but also sustainable, and for the Law School to be mindful of its impact," Bullard said. "They've done that, and I'm very happy that we were able to not just meet our goal of getting LEED certification, but to exceed it."

David Uhlmann, the Jeffrey F. Liss Professor from Practice and the director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program, served on a subcommittee that advised the South Hall building committee on environmental issues.

"The fact that the new building attained LEED Gold certification speaks volumes about the commitment of the Law School to the environment, in both words and deeds," he said.

Campus-wide Efforts
This latest LEED certification comes only weeks after the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital was awarded LEED Silver certification, and makes the Law School addition the fourth building on the Ann Arbor campus to achieve a LEED certification. The Samuel T. Dana Building in the School of Natural Resources and Environment is Gold certified, and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business building is Silver certified.

Terry Alexander, executive director of U-M's Office of Campus Sustainability, lauded the project as not only an example of the university's commitment to sustainable building design and construction, but to the teamwork required to execute a complex project in an environmentally sound manner.

"This LEED Gold certification for the Law School addition is another example of the commitment from the University of Michigan toward sustainability in all that we do," said Alexander. "It also is an example of the great team of people we have at U-M. By combining the expertise from the Architecture, Engineering and Construction group, the Law School, our Occupational Safety and Environmental Health and Plant Operations professionals, along with our external partners, we were able to go beyond what we thought possible to deliver a wonderful building that is environmentally friendly."