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W&L’s First LEED Certification Effort On Target

In its first attempt at earning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for a campus building project, Washington and Lee University has made significant strides with its Newcomb Hall preservation project , especially with its related construction waste management plan.

Newcomb Hall is the first phase of the planned rehabilitation and preservation of W&L’s historic Colonnade. Work began in June 2009 and, according to Thomas M. Kalasky, director of design and construction at W&L, is currently on schedule for completion by the summer of 2010.

In electing to seek LEED certification for all University construction projects, both the Newcomb preservation and the new construction of Hillel House are incorporating sustainable building practices in design, construction, operations and maintenance. The LEED system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, awards points in various areas. One element of the Newcomb project that has been even more successful than W&L envisioned is the diversion of construction debris away from landfills.

Working with the construction management firm of Kjellstrom and Lee, and all subcontractors, W&L created the construction waste-management plan with an initial goal of diverting 50 percent of the waste. Through November, the plan had resulted in 84 percent diversion.

“Our plan has been very effective, and we’ve had very good support from the subcontractors, which has helped guarantee its success,” said Kalasky.

The university established a construction waste-recycling center on the north end of the campus beyond its athletic fields.

“All the comingled waste is taken directly there in trucks and emptied into dumpsters without first being sorted,” said Kalasky. “This has been very efficient, requiring fewer trucks and dumpsters. The material is then transported to Ace Waste, a collector and processor specializing in construction and demolition debris recycling, near Richmond.”

Once the material is at the recycling center, Kalasky said, it is sorted into four basic products – cardboard, metal, wood and concrete (including brick and stone). Once the material is processed, Ace Waste provides W&L with a report of how much of the debris was recycled and how much wound up in the landfill.

“Cardboard goes back to new cardboard, while any wood product typically ends up as landscaping mulch,” said Kalasky. “The metals will be melted down and end up as metal products again. The concrete, bricks and stone can be used as structural fill or ultimately can end up being made back into concrete.”

Kalasky noted that while the University’s goal of LEED certification does require certain up-front costs, the benefits are numerous.

“In the long run, it makes good economic sense, but it’s also the right thing to do from a sustainability standpoint,” Kalasky said. “Some estimates are that at the current disposal rate we’ve been going, Virginia’s construction waste landfills will be full in seven years. That would mean we’d have to truck these materials somewhere out of state, which would cost more and use more fuel.”

At first blush, Kalasky said, it may seem an odd marriage to connect the preservation of a 19th-century building with 21st-century energy and environmental standards.

“What we’re doing, among other things, is inserting more efficient mechanical systems and tightening up the envelope so that we have less heat loss in the winter or heat gain in the summer,” Kalasky said. “It actually fits very well in a project like this.”