The University of North Texas takes pride in continuously seeking to be environmentally sustainable. To this end, an effort is currently underway in Facilities to analyze a select group of UNT buildings against a leading green building standard: the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings – version four.
The purpose of LEED is to provide a healthy, green, and sustainable environment for building occupants like students, visitors, faculty, and staff. LEED quantifies sustainability with measurements and analysis of many factors across eight categories, including Indoor Environmental Quality, Energy and Environment, Sustainable Site, Location and Transportation, and Water Efficiency.
The “LEED Gap Analysis” project is an evaluation of some of UNT’s buildings against the standards for sustainable operations set by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The buildings being analyzed are Chestnut Hall, Environmental Education, Science and Technology, Gateway Center, Performing Arts Center, and Radio, TV, Film and Performing Arts. The goal is to understand what is currently done in a sustainable way, identify areas of inefficiency, and determine the best course of action for improvement.
“The LEED standards are focused around making buildings more environmentally sustainable and are used in this case as a measuring stick we can compare UNT buildings against,” said Joshua Lukins, Facilities Energy Engineer, and LEED Gap Analysis project manager. “LEED allows organizations like UNT to strive towards making the built environment healthier for occupants, and encourages sustainable building practices at the local and global level,” said Lukins.
These kinds of evaluations demand a high level of commitment, intrinsic motivation to solve problems, long hours synthesizing, examining, and organizing technical documentation, understanding the principles of energy engineering, project management skills, technical writing and presentation skills, and a strong passion for sustainability. Given these characteristics, Lukins knew exactly where to turn for consulting services – the great students at UNT!
Facilities hired five Student Consultants in the fall of 2018 after receiving a funding award from the UNT We Mean Green Fund. According to Emily Bilcik, We Mean Green Fund Coordinator, “the We Mean Green Fund is a unique environmental sustainability fund at UNT made possible by the student body through their contributions to the Environmental Service Fee. Current UNT community members have the opportunity to turn their environmental sustainability ideas into action just by proposing their creative ideas to the student-majority We Mean Green Fund Committee and rallying a team to propel their eco-initiatives forward.”
Under Lukins’ guidance, the students acted as internal consultants responsible for delivering a comprehensive evaluation and report of UNT building practices and recommendations for reaching LEED accreditation. Students Yaretzy Charo, Kathleen Roark, Sean Flachs, Tramell Sephus, and Nathan Bahls collaborated with faculty, staff, USGBC officials, and Facilities leadership to develop the deliverables.
A fringe benefit of the program is the opportunity for the students to seek their professional LEED Green Associate certification. The project’s budget accounted for each student to receive funding to attempt the test once if they opt to. Students gained experience using the LEED scorecard and rating system and were provided access to the LEED Green Associate exam training materials.
The project is approaching completion in May 2019. Lukins is currently seeking another round of WMGF support for phase two, which would commence in the fall of 2019 and focus on the implementation of the report’s findings. Once finalized, Facilities will make the report public on their website.
This effort would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and dedication of the students leading the charge. Their work will leave lasting positive impacts on the way UNT manages buildings for years to come and has given them an opportunity to gain valuable professional experiences that will propel them forward in their careers outside of the classroom. Facilities is grateful for their contributions and recognizes their remarkable work.
To learn more about the LEED Gap Analysis project, contact Josh Lukins at Josh.Lukins@unt.edu.