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DeKalb building projects aim for green foundation

Construction work pursuing environmental designs

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Chief Gene Lowery discusses on Monday the new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning components used in the building of the new DeKalb police station located on Lincoln Highway.

DeKALB – Bill Finucane has worked to make DeKalb greener since well before he captured a seat on the City Council.

He was a longtime member of the Citizens’ Environmental Commission that advises the council and a driving force behind Northern Illinois University’s conversion to hybrid fleet vehicles as the school’s transportation manager.

“Personally, I own two [Toyota] Priuses,” he said before boasting of the fuel efficiency – 53.5 mpg – that he achieved on a recent road trip.

So when DeKalb Public Library leaders announced plans to pursue the possibility of a national environmental certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for their expansion and renovation project, they earned Finucane’s instant support.

“It would be good for every bit of new construction or remodeling to take into account sustainability,” Finucane said.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, 1,373 construction projects in Illinois have either applied for or received certification in its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program, but only three buildings in DeKalb County have applied to the program.

The DeKalb Public Library could become the fourth. Library board members voted Aug. 7 to begin the LEED registration process, but they are waiting to find out what construction costs could entail before locking into LEED.

Library leaders won’t know those until they hire a construction manager.

“We don’t know what the costs are going to be yet,” DeKalb Library Director Dee Coover said. “The consultants were very careful not put a cost on anything yet.”

LEED grades the environmental sustainability of new construction and major renovation projects based on an established set of criteria. The four levels of certification – certified, single, gold and platinum – are achieved using a points system. Six categories take into account indoor air quality, water efficiency, construction practices, energy efficiency, green building materials and design innovation.

“It’s a ratings system that evaluates the many different sustainability components of a building,” said Cortney Adams, the program coordinator for the Illinois Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. “It’s a holistic approach entailing six different categories that look at the overall sustainability of your building.”

DeKalb County buildings with LEED certification are the Kohl’s store on Sycamore Road in DeKalb, which attained the certified level, and Kishwaukee College’s new student center, which opened in January at the gold level. NIU’s Stevens Center has applied for certification, but construction isn’t set to begin until 2014.

The city of DeKalb took a different route with its new police station, which is expected to open in about six weeks, Police Chief Gene Lowery said.

That project is incorporating sustainable design elements and materials in order to reduce energy consumption, but DeKalb Public Works Director T.J. Moore said the tight budget prevented pursuing LEED. The U.S. Green Building Council charges $900 to register for LEED and additional thousands could be assessed to complete the certification review process.

“We can take that money and put into police operations and benefit the officers on the streets,” Moore said. “I would never discourage someone from pursuing LEED, but we had a very defined budget.”

If DeKalb library leaders ultimately pursue LEED certification, they could try to recover some costs through grants. Kishwaukee College received a $240,000 grant through the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for its new student center, which uses a geothermal field to reduce its energy needs.

But Finucane said a LEED-certified building sets a good example for the community.

“The LEED certification is a nice shiny badge to wear, but then you look at it from a practical side, and if it’s a LEED-certified building that means, for the life of that building, they’re going to be using less energy,” Finucane said.

Making buildings environmentally sustainable

Here are some of the ways LEED encourages environmentally friendly building designs: 

• Marking carpool parking spots 

• Reducing the building’s water use by 30 percent

• Using regional sources for building materials 

• Using Energy Star-rated office equipment

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