Greenest of the Green
The Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) rating system, established by the non-profit US Green Building Council (USGBC) is a widely accepted framework for evaluating of the greenness of any building. LEED buildings are judged on six quantifiable measures of sustainability - sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design. Based on these criteria, LEED buildings are classified as certified, silver, gold, or platinum, the pinnacle of greenness. There are more than 750 buildings in the U.S. that have achieved a LEED rating, but only 18 LEED buildings are classified as "laboratories," a designation made by the project team and not USGBC.
In 2005, Labs for the 21st Century (Labs21) devised a specialized sustainability rating system for laboratories...
Currently, only a handful of buildings have achieved LEED platinum status, and of these, only two are laboratories. The National Renewable Laboratory's 71,347 square foot, $29.8 million Science and Technology Facility (S&TF) is one of these labs, and it is expected to achieve significant energy savings.
The Golden, Colorado facility's approach to sustainable building meshes well with its goal of developing state-of-the art renewable energy technologies such as thin-film and nanostructured solar cells. From its irrigation-free native plant landscaping and shared alternative-fueled vehicles to its 100% use of green power for electricity and top of the line energy efficient systems and appliances, the S&TF (which was designed in partnership with Labs21) is predicted to save 41% in energy costs at a savings of nearly $96,000 per year.
Here's a detailed look at how the S&TF, which was completed in June of 2006, is going about affecting some of those savings.