Students “LEED” McKimmon Center to Increased Sustainability

In a unique architecture course, NC State students helped improve environmental sustainability at the McKimmon Conference and Training Center. That’s thanks to an NC State course called LEED Lab, which brings together future engineers, architects and environmental scientists for a hands-on experience as sustainability consultants.

Using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system as a guide for sustainable best practices, the approximately 30 students in LEED Lab spent the Fall 2017 semester developing sustainability recommendations for NC State’s McKimmon Conference and Training Center.

LEED Lab students were tasked with evaluating the building’s sustainability performance and identifying ways to decrease environmental impact and costs. Class sessions consisted of group work, environmental analysis and testing and even a waste audit. The students also engaged with campus facilities managers and representatives from the course’s corporate partners: SAS, Wells Fargo, JLL, Lenovo, Schneider Electric, Stanford White and FMI Corporation.

Students learned to measure indoor air quality, analyze energy and water use, calculate payback periods on efficiency improvements and weigh tradeoffs. Save a bit of energy here, and it may increase costs elsewhere. Improve the environmental impacts in one area, and it may cause unintended consequences elsewhere.

On the last day of class, students presented their sustainability recommendations, which ranged from harvesting rainwater and installing new lighting to calibrating air handlers to optimize energy savings.

“The most rewarding part is to see students move from the position of student to the position as consultant and expert,” said Liz Bowen, a strategy consultant with FMI Corporation and course co-instructor.

The is the fourth time the LEED Lab course, hosted by the College of Design’s School of Architecture in partnership with the University Sustainability Office, has been offered on campus. Since the course began in 2013, nearly 100 students have evaluated sustainability in Nelson Hall, Bragaw Hall, Talley Student Union and McKimmon Center.

“What we are really interested in is providing this kind of interdisciplinary work that students don’t often get in classes,” said Traci Rose Rider, a College of Design research associate and course co-instructor.

Real-World Impact

Through the course, the students earn documented project experience required to take the LEED Accredited Professional certification exam. This resume-building opportunity gives students an edge as they begin their careers, Rider said.

The course also leaves lasting benefits on campus. With a list of recommendations from students, McKimmon Center leadership now has a roadmap for boosting sustainability in the building.

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