LEED for UT Austin’s Main Campus: An AGMBC Pilot Project

Lisa Storer, M.Arch, LEED AP BD+C
Staff
Office of Campus Planning & Facilities Management
lisa.storer@austin.utexas.edu

In October 2010, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) released an Application Guide for Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Projects (AGMBC), intended to help project teams use LEED-2009, the latest version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standards, to certify buildings on an existing campus where there is one owner or common property management and control. The AGMBC allows for campuses to earn LEED credits for New Construction or for Operations and Management through campus- wide sustainability policies and procedures. Credits earned through this program are cached and applied to any future project applying for LEED certification within the campus boundaries.

The UT Austin Sustainable Facilities Committee began investigating the feasibility of attempting campus-wide LEED credits to be applied to all future projects on campus in February 2011. Because of the nature of UT’s campus— with its centralized District Energy System and chilled water supply, as well as its unified Facilities Services branch, which essentially serves as a steward of the built environment— UT Austin’s Main Campus appeared to be a perfect fit, and the Sustainable Facilities Committee decided to participate in the LEED-AGMBC program as a pilot project.

The UT Austin Sustainable Facilities Committee (SFC) is a collaborative effort begun in 2010 by various organizations at UT Austin and UT System’s Office of Facilities Planning and Construction (OFPC), jointly chaired by Bethany Trombley, Senior Project Manager for Project Management and Construction Services (PMCS), and John Mouritsen, Senior Resident Construction Manager for OFPC. The committee was formed to develop deliverables and processes needed to facilitate the design and construction of high performance sustainable buildings while considering methods to reduce the total cost of ownership for the University.

Since 2007, all new buildings at UT Austin are required to be designed to meet a LEED Silver rating at minimum. Because of this obligation, many project teams undertake the cumbersome process of documenting standard practices and policies that are within the purview of numerous organizations on campus, ranging from Parking and Transportation Services, to Utilities and Energy Management, to Landscaping. This process is often convoluted and time- intensive, with many organizations at UT having ownership of various pieces of information required by LEED. UT Austin’s participation in the LEED- AGMBC pilot program is an attempt at streamlining the LEED documentation process for any future construction project on campus, effectively
reducing the time and effort spent by both external architecture and engineering consultants, as well as internal staff members, to obtain the necessary information for available credits.

While the AGMBC pilot program allows campuses to pick and choose any LEED prerequisites and credits for which to apply, they have to be applicable to the entire area within the campus boundary (in our case, over 16 million square feet). We evaluated the credits that have been achieved on all of the certified LEED projects at UT Austin, and examined the practicality of documenting them on a campus- wide basis. The two types of credits that we decided to pursue were those dealing with Sustainable Sites, as the location of any project on campus is within the same physical place and
takes advantage of the same density, transportation systems, and open spaces, and those which pertain to campus-wide policies, like recycling, non-smoking, and green cleaning.

The Sustainable Sites credits, which will account for thirteen LEED points already achieved for any future projects on campus, have been documented and focus on the density and walkability of UT Austin, the availability of open spaces, and the public and campus bus system—all of which are fairly universal for projects within the UT Austin main campus. Besides simply stockpiling LEED credits, the AGMBC effort was also intended to help assist in the push for sustainable policy upgrades. The SFC is currently working on several policy and standards improvements including updating the Campus Smoking Policy to prohibit smoking within twenty-five feet of any building openings (currently the policy is twenty feet, which has made the LEED documentation for this prerequisite more complicated, necessitating signage on all buildings since 2007).

In addition to this documentation, we also see the AGMBC effort as forming the framework for LEED directives and standards for external design consultants. One example where the AGMBC effort will not achieve any credits at this time, but will be a reserve for information, is regarding energy modeling for buildings on campus. As the USGBC intends to audit future LEED buildings for a period of five years post certification, monitoring their energy and water usage against modeled values, we want to ensure accuracy in documented energy models. Holding consultants to particular standards allows for more accurate planning and
facilitates the long-term stewardship of UT Austin’s built environment.

The LEED-AGMBC effort for UT Austin’s main campus represents the University’s attempt at streamlining a somewhat unfamiliar and cumbersome process involved with construction on campus, allowing the UT to better direct consultants and to achieve LEED certification with less effort and expenditure. The final quantitative results remain to be seen, as the AGMBC documentation is slated to be evaluated for credit in October, but the exercise of appraising the Main Campus with an eye toward LEED has been invaluable in exposing areas where campus policies and practices can be improved.

References

  1. USGBC, 2010 LEED Application Guide for Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Building Projects (USGBC, 2010), https://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=7987.
  2. Sustainable Facilities Committee website (SFC, 2011), http://www.utexas.edu/sustainability/.