Zhang Center earns silver certification as 'green' building

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Photo of the interior of the Zhang Legacy Collections Center.

Interior view of the Zhang Center

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Zhang Legacy Collections Center at Western Michigan University has achieved silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

LEED is the national benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. With the Zhang Center's silver certification for new construction, awarded June 2 by the U.S. Green Building Council, WMU now has eight campus buildings that meet the stringent requirements of this rating system and 13 more in the review process.

A state-of-the art, climate-controlled facility, the Zhang Center houses the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections. The Archives preserve WMU's papers, files and history while the Regional History Collections contain vital records, tax rolls, diaries, Civil War letters, newspaper archives, photographs, maps and other historical materials from 12 Michigan counties and beyond.

Together, those holdings make the University's Archives and Regional History Collections the largest facility of its type in southwest Michigan and one of the largest in the state.

Built to LEED specifications

The Zhang Legacy Collections Center was built to meet LEED silver certification standards, notes Peter Strazdas, WMU associate vice president for facilities management.

"WMU is committed to being environmentally responsible and a steward of our natural and financial resources. We make thoughtful, sustainable facility decisions whenever we construct a new building or renovate an existing one," Strazdas says. "The Zhang Center presented a unique opportunity to build sustainability characteristics into a highly specialized facility with energy-intensive requirements for controlling and monitoring temperature, humidity, air quality and lighting."

Among the main environmentally friendly features of the center is a geothermal heating and cooling system. A ground-source geoexchange process, it uses the renewable energy from the earth to heat and cool the building by means of heat transfer.

In winter, the system draws out heat from the ground through a series of pipes installed in the earth. A solution runs through the piping, capturing the warmth and delivering it to a ground-source heat pump inside the Zhang Center. The pump then uses refrigerant to transfer the captured warmth into the air or water that is heating the structure. In summer, the pump simply reverses the process, pulling the heat from the building, carrying it through the loops of pipes, and re-injecting it into the earth.

"This system will lower the annual operating cost of the building," Strazdas says, "and use the earth as a renewable energy source."

Additional key green building features

  • The Zhang Center's HVAC and LED lighting systems will reduce annual energy consumption by an estimated 30 percent compared to traditional systems. This will keep 343 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year, an amount equivalent to burning 4.5 tanker trucks worth of gasoline or 1.5 railcars worth of coal.
  • An underground stormwater retention system, rain gardens and related management systems have reduced and nearly eliminated pollution and contaminants from stormwater runoff around the center.
  • The area's landscaping has been designed to require 50 percent less irrigation—less irrigation than a standard garden—reducing the use of potable water.
  • Careful selection of water-efficient plumbing fixtures, faucets and flush valves for the center will result in a 27 percent reduction in potable water and sewage usage.
  • Of the center's total materials cost, 51 percent represents recycled materials and 57 represents regionally extracted and manufactured materials. During construction, 90 percent of all construction waste was reclaimed and recycled.
  • All of the center's equipment was selected to ensure that refrigerants would cause minimal damage to the atmosphere, and low-emitting materials, adhesives and sealants were used throughout the building to reduce any adverse effects to indoor air quality.

For more information about the Zhang Center's LEED certification, contact Peter Strazdas at peter.strazdas@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8584.