Salon Recap: Aim High, Reach Higher - Lehman College's Platinum Science Hall

CUNY Lehman College's LEED Platinum Science Hall

Does LEED Platinum cost more than garden variety certification? And can a lab building get certified Platinum at all? At Aim High, Reach Higher, Breeze Glazer and Julio Colon (Perkins+Will) used a “mythbusters” theme to answer these questions.

An inexperienced project team or a jump to pursue LEED midway through the design process can add serious costs to a project, said Glazer. But for Lehman College’s 69,000 square foot Science Hall, the team had deep experience and the project started with LEED “from day one.” CUNY’s commitment made things “a thousand times easier,” said Glazer: since LEED was planned from the beginning, many creditable building features, like daylighting and views, were designed in “for free.”

But is Lehman’s lab building experience replicable? Indeed, there are fewer certified labs than any other building type, says Glazer, and Science Hall’s Platinum certification was the first in New York State. But there are some inherent advantages to certifying this type of facility. The requirement for 100% outside air means that the credit for increased ventilation is a “gimme”. And while LEED gives a credit for enhanced pollutant source control, this requirement is already built into lab projects.

Some of the design features could apply to any commercial building. While the building façade uses a combination of materials, the architects wanted it to look “transparent,” said Colon. But with high performance glazing (U-0.26) and spandrel glass that creates the illusion of continuous glass while saving vision glass for where views are desired, the design reduces heating and cooling needs while maintaining views in 93% of building spaces.

More broadly, Glazer and Colon examined 13 hospitals over 100,000 square feet located across the country and certified at every LEED level. They found an average 0.67% construction cost premium, with no correlation between LEED certification level and cost. In addition, Rene Rotolo (Lehman College) said LEED premiums are decreasing over time as consultants and contractors are increasingly familiar with requirements and build in less padding in their bids.

Of course, examining just the construction cost premium doesn’t take into account operational savings and overall lifecycle costs. Lehman’s building reduces water usage 93% from the baseline case. With water costs having increased 131% since the building entered schematic design, these savings add up.