South Hall Awarded LEED Gold Rating

By Katie Vloet
Photo by Leisa Thompson

Justice Kagan Q and A

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 was recognized in June with the LEED Gold certification rating.

The 100,000-square-foot building's LEED score of 44 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, 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.

Around campus, LEED certification has been a priority in recent years. C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital was awarded LEED Silver certification earlier this year; the Samuel T. Dana Building in the School of Natural Resources and Environment became Gold certified in 2005; and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business Building was certified Silver in 2010.

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 with the Gold rating."

Rebecca Eisenberg, the faculty chair of the Law School Building Committee, said the Law School found the most sensible ways to create a sustainable building, rather than "groveling for all the LEED points we could get." A roof garden, for instance, would have won more LEED points, but would not have made sense given the architecture of the Law School's buildings.

"We kept an eye on the LEED criteria to help us think of ways to minimize our environmental footprint, but we used our own judgment with the help of the University architects and engineers to make the best choices for us rather than following a standard list," she said. "In the end I'm happy to have the LEED Gold certification, but I'm really proud that we took responsibility for sound environmental stewardship upon ourselves rather than outsourcing that job to the LEED certifiers."

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South Hall Awarded LEED Gold Rating