Tulare Center for Agriculture & Technology
Green Building Certification
At the center of the new Tulare campus is a highly efficient building. The intent when designing and constructing this new center was to create a structure that is not only energy efficient but sustainable for decades to come. The building isn’t just considered efficient because the architect or owner said so – an independent third party certification program called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) confirms our sustainable strategies and has provided us with a New Construction Certification on August 8, 2013. The plaque for this certification can be seen in the lobby.
LEED is an internationally accepted and understood building rating system governance by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and Green Building Certification Institute. This standard intends to promote a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health:
- Sustainable Sites
- Water Efficiency
- Energy Efficiency
- Materials selection
- Indoor Environmental Quality
Within each of these 5 areas are credit strategies a project team can apply to its building and each of these credits is worth a certain number of points. Of the 110 points available, we have earned 43 points and have become only the second building in Tulare County to receive LEED certification.
The following are specific strategies this building exhibits and how they relate to our LEED certification.
Environmental concerns connected to buildings are not just issues that should be addressed within a building, but are also related to how occupants travel to and from the building. Most people get to and from a place in a single-occupied vehicle, which directly affects fuel consumption and air and water pollution from vehicle exhaust. LEED encourages alternative transportation options for projects and COS Tulare has applied 4 main strategies at this building:
- Local public transportation – Two bus lines (TIME 7 and TCAT 40) are immediately accessible to students and faculty in front of the campus at Wing A. These lines provide transit to the City of Tulare and to Southeast Tulare County and a map/schedule can be found online with all of the information you need.
- Electric Vehicle Charging Stations – COS provides 20 120V GFCI electric car charging stations. These are free for your use and if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact the registrar’s office.
- Preferred parking for employees, guests and students is provided for those who drive a low-emitting or fuel-efficient vehicle. The cars approved for these spots classified as Zero Emissions Vehicles by the California Air Resources Board or have a minimum green score of 40 on the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy annual Vehicle Rating guide. Contact the registrar to get approved for parking in these spaces.
- 20 preferred parking spots have also been allocated for those who carpool to the site. Reducing private automobile use saves energy and reduces vehicle emissions and it's way more fun to drive to class with a friend!
The COS Tulare Center processes all of its site’s rain and storm water through a closed loop system. This means all water that falls onto the site is retained on site and not sent off through a municipal stormwater system. Stormwater can be a major source of pollution as it collects oil and contaminants from parking lots, often polluting streams and /or increasing surface area and overloading municipal system. By responsibly managing the water that falls onto our site, we are able to maintain a natural infiltration process similar to that occurring on this land before this campus was built.
A significant portion of our site is vegetation and agriculture, therefore, water will naturally infiltrate in these areas and the land itself will treat and clean the water. For the run-off stormwater from the parking lots, building roofs, and walkways, stormwater collectors gather the water and convey it to our site’s retention basin on the south side of the campus. This water is retained and allowed to naturally infiltrate back into the soil replenishing the natural aquifer. This water is then pumped back out of the aquifer through an existing well and used to irrigate the campus vegetation and agriculture land.
In addition to this closed loop system that eliminates the need for municipal stormwater management or city water for irrigation, we have also created a landscape plan that reduces the amount we need for irrigation. Using efficient fixtures as well as local and adaptive plants to this region, we have reduced our irrigation needs by 63%.
The use of dark surfaces on parking lots, roofs and walkways contributes to what’s known as the “heat island effect” by absorbing the sun’s warmth and then giving it off at night. This creates an artificial raise in temperature during the day and into the evening as compared to the surrounding areas. This temperature change not only interrupts wildlife patterns but it also increases the need for cooling inside the building. By replacing dark roofs with white ones, and using lighter colored concrete, we mitigate this heat island affect and reflect solar heat gain rather than absorbing it in our building.
In addition to water savings outside of our building, COS Tulare Center also boasts significant water savings inside of our building. By installing efficient toilets and urinals, in addition to flow fixtures, such as bathroom and kitchen faucets we are able to reduce our water usage by 35% as compared to standard code compliant fixtures. This is also a relatively easy strategy to implement in your own homes or next renovations.
In addition to this quantified savings, COS has also cut its water use in half at each of its lab sinks by installing inexpensive aerators. However, because lab sinks aren’t standard fixtures in the LEED rating system, this water savings is in addition to our 35% and brings us to an unofficial water savings of nearly 50% in this building! This not only reduces the amount of clean potable water we use from the city, but also reduces the wastewater we send back through the sewage system.
The state of California requires every new construction building to model the energy use of the designed building as it is compared to a standard code compliant building. Through this modeling, we have projected 20.2% total energy savings by cost (meaning, we estimate we’ll reduce our energy bills by 20%). This model captures a number of energy savings strategies we designed into this building. An example of this includes reduced indoor lighting which still provides more than enough for building occupants but doesn’t create extra heating loads on the cooling systems. We have improved the building’s wall construction by increasing our U-Factor (measurement that describes the overall heat transfer and how well a building elements conducts heat) in walls and windows, therefore reducing the amount of heat and cold transfer through our building envelope. As a campus of several buildings, we have also built a central plant to heat and cool the adjacent buildings. This allows us to invest in more efficient boilers and cooling towers that benefit the entire campus.
To verify that our project’s energy-related systems are installed, calibrated and perform according to the owner’s project requirements, and the construction documents, we have gone through comprehensive building commissioning process. A third party double-checked all of the energy systems throughout the design and construction process verifying what we intended to install was actually installed correctly and operates as expected. This process helps to reduce energy costs over the lifetime of the building, lowers the operating costs, and improves the air quality for our building occupants.
Over 20% of the money spent on the materials for this building (excluding mechanical, electrical, plumbing and furniture) came from recycled sources. Products with recycled content reduce virgin materials and solid waste. There are two types of recycled content represented in our 20%: Post-Consumer (such as water bottles turned into carpet) and Pre-Consumer (wood chips made into particle board). Materials in this building with these two types of recycled content include:
- steel framing
- ceiling tiles
Building materials often contain small amounts of VOC and building codes limit the amount a product can contain. COS has acknowledged even more stringent standards and reduced its VOC levels even further. By following Green Seal Standards for paints and coatings, as well as choosing carpets that meet the Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus Program, we are reducing the quantity of indoor contaminants and improving the building’s air quality.
In addition to reducing the amount of VOCs in our building, we also performed a full building flush after construction but prior to occupancy. Introducing 100% outside air into the building through our HVAC system for a period of time, we evacuated air borne contaminants from the building, and now students and faculty can enjoy a dust free working environment.
This building has been designed to provide optimal thermal comfort, promoting both productivity and well-building for its occupants. Calculations for the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system have confirmed it should maintain an acceptable level of comfort. In order to ensure this, COS plans to verify and assess occupants’ comfort over time to make sure the building is operating as was intended.
Students of COS have the opportunity to learn even more about green building, LEED and sustainability through courses taught in this building through the Architecture Department. Using local case studies, student driven projects, and even this building, students have a huge opportunity to engage directly in green building practices.