This semester, as a part of my environmental emphasis within Chemical Engineering, I am taking a course in Sustainable Design and Construction. The course essentially prepares students to take the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification exam by the end of the semester. Many people in the class are taking it primarily for this purpose as some of them are graduate students or professionals already working in industry. Throughout the semester we have examined the principles of sustainable design and learned how a project can gain different LEED ratings by incorporating green construction and design practices in the areas of: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

This past Monday, our class took a field trip to the UCLA Weyburn Terrace graduate housing complex to observe how they incorporated sustainable design to gain a LEED gold certification. We met with the official LEED consultant who described how the project gained LEED credits from the materials and resources used in construction. The project used a combination of recycled materials, reused materials, rapidly renewable materials, regional materials, and certified wood to gain credit points in the materials and resources section of LEED.

We then toured the building to observe design aspects that gained the project points in other LEED areas. The project was able to gain a LEED gold rating by implementing design aspects such as:

  • a bike storage room equipped with a shower to encourage residents and employees to use bikes
  • pipes that divert rainwater to planted beds that provide an initial level of water filtration
  • dual flush toilets
  • low flow fixtures and faucets
  • roofing and flooring material with a low solar reflexive index to reduce heat island effect

Check out some pictures below from the tour:

Taking this tour put everything we have been learning in the course into context and showed me what it would really be like to be a LEED consultant on a project. This is getting me even more excited to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers next year in consulting. I’m hoping to eventually be able to move into the area of consulting for green buildings and this course has been a great way to get a solid foundation in the subject.

Until next time,