UH Hilo Student Life Center to open with Gold rating

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Date: Friday, July 11, 2008
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

As the world’s greatest athletes compete for gold at the Beijing Summer Olympics in August, the University of Hawaii at Hilo will be putting the finishing touches on its own quest for gold.

In response to student requests for additional amenities, UH Hilo is implementing new recreational programs coinciding with this fall’s opening of the Student Life Center, located next to the Athletic Complex.

“The students have been looking forward to this Center as a place to work out, socialize with friends, and even study late at night and on weekends ,” said Dr. Luoluo Hong, vice chancellor for student affairs. “So we’re all very excited.”

But the benefits of the new building will extend far beyond its social and recreational value. If all goes according to plan, the Center will become the Big Island’s first building to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating.

“Our students care deeply about sustainability for our campus and State,” said Dr. Debra Fitzsimons, vice chancellor for administrative affairs. “This building will demonstrate how UH Hilo can be environmentally conscious in how it designs, builds and operates buildings now and into the future.”

The LEED System was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1998 to encourage environmentally sustainable construction. A rating of Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum is awarded based on the number of credit points earned in six categories including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design.

Currently, the only LEED rated buildings on the island are The `Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai`i (Certified) and the Hawai`i Gateway Energy Center at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai`i Authority (Platinum). The Student Life Center’s application for a Gold rating is supported by two dozen steps taken to earn LEED credit points. Most achieve their goals by working in harmony with the surrounding environment or promoting changes in everyday practices.

The design employs natural elements to reduce energy use. The south wall, where the sun’s rays are strongest, is built with concrete blocks topped by windows to block out the sun’s heat. The north wall of the cardio room is largely comprised of windows, which allows significant light to enter the area and requires less energy to power the artificial lighting. Skylights and dormers throughout the building diffuse natural light, while the placement of a deep roof overhang, windows and louvers create spaces that can be cooled through natural ventilation.

The project has already established some lofty recycling credentials by turning an astonishing 17 tons of scrap drywall into usable products. Twelve tons of cut-off scraps were incorporated into the free mulch mix, offered by Eko, the Big Island green waste recycling station at the East Hawai`i landfill. The other five tons was crushed and used on site in place of calcium as a soil amendment. The landscaping will also utilize native or adapted species which require no irrigation.

Alternative fuel-saving transportation will be promoted through greater efficiency. The site includes no additional parking stalls, but existing lots on campus are being retrofitted with 16 VIP stalls at prime locations for carpooling. Vehicles with a campus parking pass or permit and multiple passengers will be eligible for a special free pass, allowing them to park in the carpool stalls, subject to availability. Bicycle racks have also been provided at three different locations on site to accommodate up to 20 bikes at a time.

“This building will serve as a pilot project from which green methods of operation can be expanded to other areas on campus,” Fitzsimons said. “As a campus that serves the Big Island, we’re committed to operating more efficiently, saving energy and preserving our island’s resources, so the Student Life Center will be a valuable learning laboratory.”

Construction is scheduled to wrap up early in early August in time for a grand opening celebration to be held in the fall. Upon completion, the University’s application will be examined by the USGBC review board, who will issue an official rating within four to six months. Facilities Planning Director Lo-Li Chih said a Gold rating would be a significant achievement.

“A Gold or Platinum certification is more the exception than the rule because the points are so hard to earn,” Chih said. “It takes a tremendous effort to earn a Certified or Silver rating, so a Gold certification would be extra special.”


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