Lee Center Earns LEED Gold

“To do more with less” is the mantra of all great engineers, architects, and designers today. In a world with the threat of climate change and an energy constrained future, it is also an obligation  to future generations. The Margaret Burke Lee Science and Health Careers Center is a brilliant example of this ethos. Having received LEED Gold certification; it ranks among the most efficient public buildings in the country.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings are among the heaviest consumers of natural resources. In the U.S., they account for 38 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and 73 percent of electricity consumption. LEED Gold buildings save money and resources, and they have a positive impact on the health of occupants while promoting renewable, clean energy.

To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites include energy efficiency, energy generation, water conservation, use of recycled materials, minimization and reuse of construction waste, and use of low gaseous emissions materials. Forty percent of the building materials used in the Lee Center construction are recycled and sourced from within 500 miles of the building site.

The purpose of the Lee Center is education, and as part of this mission, the building helps educate users about conservation. Signs within the building highlight sustainable innovations. In the main lobby, a sign notes that the walls are covered in reclaimed wood sheathing from a Midwestern barn. Another explains that the polished concrete floors help store and slowly release the winter sun’s warmth to reduce energy use. Placement of windows and skylights help mitigate the use of electric lighting. When light is needed, it is provided by LED bulbs, which use 30 percent less electricity than fluorescent bulbs, contain no mercury, and because they last 10 times longer, require less maintenance and create less waste.

Computer controlled window shades sense the sun’s angle, temperature, and wind speed to help cool the building and allow heat and light in during colder weather. Solar panels are also positioned to shade windows and move with the season to maximize energy production. Even the elevator—constructed from 95 percent recycled material—uses a new technology that is twice as efficient as standard traction elevators and requires no maintenance oils. To help encourage recycling, filtered water stations are located throughout the building so users can refill water bottles.

The Illinois Green Economy Network has provided an online dashboard (buildingdashboard.net/igen/#/igen/oakton) where Oakton community members can monitor the energy savings provided by the solar panels.