Most students were left feeling frustrated last year when a commuter parking lot was removed to make space for the new chemistry and forensic science building, and even less available parking is something student’s can expect upon the buildings completion in spring of 2016 – and the decision was intentional.

The University of Rhode Island is currently working with Wilson Architects to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification on the project, a premier mark of achievement in green building.  So what does this have to do with parking?

In order to achieve certification, one of the major categories of LEED Gold is that a building should be constructed on a “sustainable site.”  Obviously the building will be within walking distance for students who live on campus, but for others with a further commute there will be ample bike storage and several parking spots for fuel-efficient vehicles.  A sustainable site with more eco-friendly commute options will mean less driving and lower fuel emissions on campus.

Outside of the building we can also expect to see more green designs at play in terms of water efficiency with a rain garden that will cut down on surface runoff and improve storage of stormwater.  The garden will feature only plants native to Rhode Island that for the most part will require very little maintenance.

“One of the beauties of that kind of system is yes, you do have to keep it clear, but it is a very naturalized drainage swale system,” said J. Vernon Wyman, assistant vice president of business services said.  The rain garden is also expected to improve problems of flooding during rainstorms by slowing water from running down the hill according to Paul M. Depace, URI’s director of the Office of Capital Projects.

Designs of the building that will help the university cut down on energy usage include large glazed windows as well as sunshades beyond the windows.  Both of these designs are implemented for reducing the energy needed to heat or cool the building.  The large windows will also provide natural lighting and reduce the need for and use of artificial ones.

The new chemistry building will also save energy by not emitting heat. Reflective materials of the building and the lightly colored walkways surrounding the building will keep temperatures down.

From the earliest stages of construction, the site has been environmentally friendly.  In order to achieve LEED Gold, the university was critical of construction materials and methods when deciding to work with Wilson Architects.  Low emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as paints, adhesives and other construction materials were chosen to maintain air quality.  For materials not used, there is waste management control in place.

The makings of the building’s furniture and doors are coming from completely reused materials.  All wood inside the building can be expected to be recycled.  All of the materials come from no further than 500 miles away, to again drive home the university’s efforts in cutting down on fuel emissions.

Does this sound expensive? Green buildings on campus are undoubtedly efficient.  The university’s cost of fuels has come down and energy costs have remained constant, despite the increase of square footage.

“When you commit to energy efficient components within a building, National Grid, our power distributor in the state, directs rebates back to us,” Wyman said.

The university may only apply for LEED Gold certification until after the new chemistry and forensic science building is completed. To date, the project is close to 50 percent complete.