Third Time’s the Charm: Bren Hall’s Third LEED Platinum Certification Makes History

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By Kate Columbus

Outreach Intern, UCSB Sustainability

UC Santa Barbara’s Bren Hall continues to make history and set the “green” bar high by earning its third LEED Platinum certification this past July. Thanks to the work of Bren Hall Building Engineer Sage Davis, Instructor and LEED Accredited Professional (AP) Brandon Kaysen, and the ES 194GB LEED Living Lab class, Bren Hall is the first building in the country to achieve three Platinum LEED Certifications.

You may see the LEED certification stamp in many campus buildings’ windows and wonder what exactly is LEED? Standing for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”, LEED is a set of building standards developed in the late 1990’s to create and promote highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. LEED has a point system that determines whether your building qualifies as “certified”, “silver”, “gold”, or “platinum”. There is a different threshold of requirements for each certification: in order to be LEED Certified, a building needs to earn 40 to 49 points while a building aspiring to be LEED Platinum has to obtain 80 to 110 points. Bren Hall earned an impressive 93 out of 110 points to gain its third LEED Platinum certification. This achievement also made Bren Hall the highest scoring project out of all 2,647 LEED projects certified in the entire country during 2017!

From equipment maintenance and upkeep to emergency repair, Sage Davis has been in charge of everything related to the Bren Hall facility for the past six years. Davis shared Bren Hall’s history with LEED, which started when the building was first commissioned in 2002. With the help of faculty pushing for Bren Hall to be built as green as possible, Bren Hall was able to receive the LEED Platinum certification for New Construction in April 2002. This made Bren Hall the first LEED certified building in the University of California system and the first LEED Platinum certified laboratory facility in the  United States.

Bren Hall’s operations team has managed to keep the building operating at a high level of efficiency for the past 15 years: in 2009, Bren Hall received its second LEED Platinum certification for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EB O+M) under version 2. Since LEED certifications expire every five years, Bren Hall was due for a recertification and Davis wanted to see how they would “score against the newer, tougher version 4 of LEED.” He explained how LEED continually changes some of their credits and prerequisites and how some qualifications that were not required before are now. “If you don’t get one prerequisite for a category, you won’t be able to achieve certification at all,” Davis explains. He gave the example of the “Indoor Environmental Quality” category: one of the prerequisites is “Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control.” “If they [LEED review team] think you don’t have the proper signage, you will not pass the prerequisite, thus disqualifying the project for certification,” Davis said.

Davis considers Bren Hall’s third Platinum certification “the students’ project”: the ES 194GB LEED Living Lab class is a yearlong course that is “kind of like the vehicle for EBOMs on campus.” Starting off with 40 students in the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year, the students broke off into teams for each of the eight LEED categories and assumed a credit within each category. The students worked together as a team to conquer each credit, which gave them real world experience in project management.

Although many students helped Bren Hall become LEED Platinum certified, Davis and Kaysen were heavily involved throughout the entire process: Davis spent 443 hours over the course of the year working on this certification process while Kaysen spent a combined 250 hours teaching the course and managing the LEED Online platform! An extremely valuable resource for the students, Davis helped students with audits and got them into areas most people couldn’t get into. Davis’s relationship with facilities also helped them get on board with ways to help the class with certain policies and audits.

LEED Lab submitted their application during the 2017 Spring quarter and got back review comments that pointed out credits that required additional information in June. Since the results came after UCSB’s academic year was over, Davis, Kaysen, and a hired student, Kenny Webb, worked extremely hard to provide the necessary details and resubmit the project in mid June. “There was a lot of push to get it done towards the end,” admitted Davis. “But the Bren School’s Dean said, ‘it’s either platinum or bust!’” Everyone’s hard work paid off: Bren Hall went above and beyond in making sure the building is as sustainable and energy efficient as possible. A complete list of Bren Hall’s “green” achievements can be found on this website.

Made up of 40% of recycled materials and consuming 35% of the national average for lab building energy use, Bren Hall continues to astound everyone and push the standards of sustainable building. Davis shares that every new building on UCSB’s campus has to be at least LEED Gold certified: thanks to Bren Hall’s innovation and commitment, UCSB is slowly becoming more sustainable, one building at a time.